The Summer I Gave Up.

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(I hope you’re in the mood for some stream-of-consciousness.)

For the last few months, I’ve been at war with myself. Ironically, neither side is winning.

On one hand, you have the Ryan that is trying dearly to have a relaxing Summer. Ever since I found out from my Physician that my weight, cholesterol and bilirubin have all gone up, I made a vow to quell my round-the-clock anxiety and take as much time as possible for myself. I’ve been getting eight hours of sleep a night. I stopped drinking excessively. I’ve been exercising more. I’ve been eating right, and most importantly, I’m reducing unnecessary stress at every corner.

As soon as I get home from work, I change into running shorts and a t-shirt. I stay off the Internet and relax on the couch. I read my mail, take a walk and eat a decent dinner. If the house is messy, I’ll clean it up later. I sometimes take a 45-minute shower and not shave for days on end. This is not typical behavior from me. From the looks of it, you would think that I’ve gotten divorced. Truth is, I’m just trying to invite a little laziness and tranquility into my life, and maybe stave off the heart attack for another year or two.

On the other hand, you have the Ryan that’s running against the clock. My book needs to be finished by the end of the year, and it’s going to take a sprint in order to achieve this goal. Essays need to be written. Drafts need to be proofread. Cover art needs to be completed. The self-publishing process is long, annoying and time-intensive, yet it seems that I’m never in the mood or creative frame of mind in which to tackle anything remotely resembling it. It’s not Writer’s Block, it’s more like apathy mixed with a migraine.

Therein lies the cruel irony. When I’m trying to relax, I get anxious thinking about all the work I need to be doing, and how big of I loser I am for shelving my projects. When I’m trying to work, all I can think about is taking a nap or doing something, anything to get me away from the computer. Either way, I feel miserable, and neither of my long-term goals are being accomplished. I am at war with myself, and neither side is winning.

Generally, you (or I) would look at this situation as nothing more than a minor inconvenience. I mean, the book’s going to get done eventually. I’m not wasting away from some terminal illness. And while money’s tight, it’s not like I’m starving to death. I should take stock and optimism in all the things going right in my life which allow me to stress over such seemingly minuscule tribulations. This is not typical behavior from me. I’m more of the ‘piss and moan until the ulcer starts bleeding’ type of guy, and that’s really not helping things, either. For the first time in years, I’m in a spiral of negativity, apathy and anxiety, and while I know I’ll break free eventually, I’m beginning to wonder what it’s going to take.

In times like this, I usually look over to the Missus to see what she’s up to. A glance will reveal that she’s busier, more productive and goal-driven as ever. She’s in a new office position that she enjoys. She’s been earning extra money by doing side projects that she would probably do for free. Hell, she’s even volunteering her time at a local animal shelter, rehabilitating ducks and squirrels every Tuesday night. This is not typical behavior from her. The tables, it seems, have been turned between the two of us. What tipped the axis of the Zeinert household to cause such a switcheroo?

In recent weeks, I’ve experimented with many different methods in which to jumpstart my ambition, while still allowing myself amble decompression time. I’ve been waking up earlier and giving myself more time to prepare for the work day. I’ve been deleting shows from my DVR queue like crazy, forcing myself into a Subterfuge Solitude so I have no choice but to write out of boredom. I’ve been gobbling up vegetarian multivitamins that taste like absolute shit. Whatever it takes to instigate some sort of change in my motivation. This is not typical behavior from me. I usually run on fumes, have enough time for everything I need to do, and feel no twinge of slackerdom whatsoever. The culprit continues to elude me.

Perhaps it’s good-old depression; the disorder I haven’t felt since the Winter of 2000. Maybe that’s why it’s been so hard for me to dust myself off and come out swinging. Maybe it’s a legit chemical imbalance that I have little-to-no control over, and I either need to ride it out or get some help. But…what am I depressed about? I don’t feel clinically depressed. I mean, I feel a little fat and my knees hurt, but that doesn’t seem like enough shame to flip some deep-rooted Emo Switch in my cerebrum. I’m confused. I’m unsure of my body and I don’t really know what I can do to fix it. This is not typical behavior from me. Short of taking care of myself and laying off the existential thinking for a few nights, I’m stumped.

As my mind continues to search for answers in the present, it is keeping me from focusing intently on the past, which I need constant access to when it comes to writing essays. Therefore, I’ve been at a standstill, and my only logical answer is to let the apathy in and ride it out until it decides to leave me alone. So, until further notice, I have officially given up. I’m playing a lot of Tetris and Rock Band, watching syndicated reruns of television shows I didn’t even enjoy when they were new, and I more or less shuffle around the house like I’m stacked to the rafters with Xanax. This is my only chance of survival. The demon cannot be exorcised until I’m fully possessed; either I’ll emerge victorious or hit rock bottom with no chance of resurfacing. It’s a fight to the death, and I’m all in.

This is typical behavior for me.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. Come back Friday for a fun little announcement, and a peek into what the CDP has in store for the remainder of July.

Play Don’t.

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(The following essay will be featured in my next book, due out later this year. If anything, let this serve as a sneak peak as to how awesome it’s going to be. I have big things planned for the CDP for the remainder of the summer, but this will be my final straight-up essay until the book is published. Please enjoy.)

When I was around the age of 10, my mother grew exhausted with our almost-daily screaming matches and took us both to see a therapist. Although I never asked her the exact reason for this, my assumption was that she chose therapy in an attempt for us to learn a little more about each other on a deeper level, and try to form some sort of alternate connection, instead of engaging in a constant battle of manipulation and passive-aggressive superiority. All I knew for sure was that I got the day off of school, so I was in without objection.

There was one moment from that day that sticks out more prominently than anything else; a memory I may never forget. The therapist gave me and my mother each a can of Play-Doh (she got a blue can, I got a red one), told us to sculpt something that reminded us of the other person, and explain our reasons why. This seemed like a decent way to open up and share feelings that were currently buried under a pile of baggage and clever wordplay. A chance to complement each other without feeling like we were somehow conceding victory in our Cold War.

Mom went first; she molded an adorable Teddy Bear. Round little ears. Bulbous nose. Hemispherical mitts. It looked like a fluffy, blue Teddy Graham. She then went on about how much she loved and treasured me as a son, how she’d do anything for me, and so on and so forth. She broke into tears expressing just how much she cared about me; it was a very touching and heartfelt moment.

Then it was my turn. I produced a cherry-red, foot-long, coiled snake.

Could you tell us why you made a snake?” the therapist gently inquired, quite certain that she had stumbled upon a demon seed.

Well…” I stammered for a moment while I crafted my story. “Well…whenever me and mom fight, it’s…it’s like…um, THIS!

I then proceeded to mimic the snake obliterating my mom’s Teddy Bear representation of me. I had the snake bite off the round ears. I made it tear apart the hemispherical mitts. I coiled it around the bear’s midsection and squeezed the entire works together in my hands, forming a wad of mutilated, blue-red hamburger. I then slapped the entire works back onto the therapist’s desk and pounded it flat with my fists.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

The therapist’s pencil holder and picture frames vibrated across her glass desk like an air hockey table as I put the exclamation point on my impromptu production. It was quite the performance. It was also the first and last time I ever saw a therapist with my mother. She has never once brought it up.

I know what you’re thinking. That was a frightening, worrisome and heartbreaking tale about a mother desperately attempting to establish a bond with her vile, degenerate, cursed son. I completely understand where you’re coming from, but please listen, as I have a confession to make. A confession for the you, the reader, but mainly a confession for my mother.

I’ve never been artistically inclined, and the logical fact of the matter was that I didn’t know how to make anything but a snake with Play-Doh. It was all I could construct. At the time, I was too embarrassed and insecure to admit this creative lapse to the therapist or my mother, so I just made the only thing I could and bluffed my way through the rest of the session. I didn’t mean a word of it, I was just too superficial and petty to admit that I sucked at Art.

And so it goes. It took me a long time to realize that my lifelong struggles with anger and emotional manipulation were never even close to the lifelong struggles I’ve had with vanity, ego and constant attempts to ward off public humiliation. While my mom and the therapist saw an angry kid pummeling the living shit out of a wad of modeling compound (and incorrectly affirming their theories about me), I had my own personal revelation concerning my deepest fears of embarrassment and pride, flaws that nobody knew I had. I learned something important about myself that day; unfortunately, everyone else in the room merely thought I was destined to become a serial killer.

In short, I’m really, really sorry, mom. I never thought you were a snake. I just didn’t know how to make anything out of Play-Doh that showed how much I love you.

The Boss Is Out Of Town, And We’ve Gone Crazy!

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As you may know, my second book is coming out later this year. So what better way to prepare than by finally getting your hands on my first one, the 2007 masterpiece known as 65 Poor Life Decisions?

There’s no better time than now, because until the end of June, you can snag it for 10% off! Here’s how:

1. Pick up my book.
2. At the checkout, enter the Promo Code ‘SUMMERREAD305.’
3. You’ll also get free shipping on orders over $19.95, in case you buy more than one.
4. Offer is good until June 30, so get moving.

Thanks in advance. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. Good things are on the way.