The Meat and Potatoes of Life: Life after terminal leave has its nightmares

| August 26, 2016 | 0 Comments


Lisa Smith Molinari
Contributing Writer
Ever since my retired Navy husband, Francis, went on terminal leave, I’ve been having some pretty weird dreams.

Nowadays, some prefer to use the label “transition leave” because it sounds a little less like someone is about to die, but no matter whether one uses the ominous traditional term or the newfangled sugarcoated expression, both describe the same thing: the period of accrued leave (up to 75 days) that a service member can take before his or her final separation from the military.

Some lucky military service members line up good civilian jobs before their leave time begins, making leave a veritable vacation. Others sail through their leave without a care in the world, knowing they can survive comfortably on their military retirement pay due to independent wealth, or a spouse with a wicked good job, or an absence of major bills like mortgages and college tuition.

But then there are people like us. We have a dog scheduled for expensive knee surgery, two kids with private college tuition, one child who goes over the data limit on her phone every month, a minivan with 180,000 miles on it and a funny rattling noise in the wheel well, tired old furniture in desperate need of replacement, and an embarrassing amount of accumulated debt.

I could claim that my writing career will carry us, but then again, I could also declare that monkeys will fly out of my belly button. So, it’s a given: Francis has to get a new job before his terminal leave ends, and he stops receiving a paycheck from Uncle Sam.

During this transition in our lives, we could either fight the psychosomatic effects of stress or embrace them.

Did you know that nail biting actually saves wear and tear on clippers? Facial ticks are a form of exercise. Wine actually tastes pretty good on Tuesday afternoons. Diarrhea can be quite cleansing. And terminal leave nightmares are kind of fun to interpret.

In this week’s nightmare, I had a big, sprawling house with lots of rooms. And even though it was my house, I was surprised by several hidden hallways, staircases and bedrooms. At some point, I became aware that I had houseguests – dozens of them.

The house suddenly looked cluttered and dirty. The dream turned chaotic, as I tried desperately to play hostess to the hoard of guests. I was frantic to find them all clean towels, bedrooms and baths in the complicated maze of my mysterious house. Just before I woke up, I discovered that the bathrooms were infested with gobs and gobs of slimy black mold.

I couldn’t wait to ask Google what my bizarre nightmare was all about. Apparently, “new room” dreams are actually quite common.

The famous "The Scream" paints one picture of the author's current dream-state of mind.

The famous “The Scream” paints one picture of the author’s current dream-state of mind.

According to, and most other online dream interpretation sources, a house represents “self” or “inner psyche,” and finding new rooms in that house can indicate that the dreamer is facing something new or unknown about himself or herself.

Finding dirty or cluttered rooms implies that some aspect of the dreamer’s life is in chaos. It can also mean that the dreamer is suffering from some emotional or psychological clutter and needs to release these feelings in order to regain control.

What other common dreams may appear during stressful transitions in life? Teeth falling out can indicate problems with confidence or self-expression. Being late to, or forgetting to study for a school exam implies that the dreamer feels judged or unprepared for a challenge. Dreams of falling happen when one feels unsupported or out-of-control, but are also linked to a “fall from grace.”

Dreams of being naked in public can indicate shame, fear of exposure and vulnerability. Being chased in a dream can represent fear that a secret, an addiction or a debt may catch up with you. Dreaming of being in an out-of-control vehicle can indicate a lack of direction in life.
But interestingly, flying often indicates that the dreamer is feeling empowered and optimistic.

So, for those who have recently retired from the military or are considering retirement, never fear. Even if you find yourself toothless on a date, naked in church, late for a Calculus exam or being chased by wolverines, remember that it’s only a dream.
One day soon, terminal leave will be over, and with any luck, you’ll be flying high.
(For more Molinari insights, visit   


Category: The Meat and Potatoes of Life

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