today and yesterday

I made a yummy yummy noodles for lunch today.

2006 Aug 24 - Noodles

I’m too lazy to write out a full recipe, but here’s a quick synopsis of the ingredients/what I did (if only I had a template for the recipe format at Cooking for Engineers, I’d write you a real recipe):

1. noodles: 1/2 package Korean vermicelli noodles soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes then drained + sesame oil to coat
2. raw vegetables: 1/4 green cabbage, sliced + 3 green onions, green parts only, slivered
3. sauce (made early and let sit so flavors could develop): 3 green onions, white parts, sliced + 2 cloves garlic, minced + about 1/2c soy sauce, all mixed together in a cup
4. cooked ingredients: 1 sliced yellow onion + 2 sliced whitefish Thai sausages + about 1/3c white sesame seeds, stir-fried in oil until onions were soft and sausages were cooked
5. final assembly: all of the above mixed together in a large pan and stirred until cabbage wilted very slightly

It was a good decision not to cook the cabbage, and also a good choice to add the sesame seeds (they weren’t in my original plan). The dish had a pleasant mixed texture from the chewy noodles, crunchy sesame seeds and crisp cabbage, and a strong, slightly spicy flavor from the raw garlic and the sausages. I’d definitely make this again.

Erik and I had a nice long walk yesterday, during which we sorted out why I’ve been so lethargic this summer. When the heat wave was at its worst it was easy to dismiss my lazy mood as just a by-product of the hot weather, but in recent weeks it has been so cool that this was no longer a possible excuse. (Unfortunately, yesterday and today it has been getting hot again.) After several days of feeling glum and blah and like I wasted days without getting anything done, I was just feeling really desperate. We walked up Runyon Canyon and talked, and as we made it up the hill to the highest point I’ve ever been, we figured out what’s been going on with me.

This summer has been one of self-improvement, but I’ve also been feeling terrible about myself. Ive been trying to improve my life dramatically on several fronts at once, but even though I’ve found a good amount of success with each, I’ve been so discouraged. There are two reasons for this. First, working so hard on improving everything at once has left me highly self-critical, so that I’ve only been able to recognize what I do wrong and not what I do right. Second, since I’m trying to improve all aspects of my life, there aren’t any easy rewards anywhere; it’s an uphill battle in everything I do. Overall result of all this: I’ve felt exhausted, and felt like everything I did was either futile or not good enough.

Here’s a quick rundown:

Eating habits
Goal: I’ve been trying to eat less and eat healthier.
Result: I’ve incorporated more vegetables into my diet, I don’t eat so many huge portions as I used to, and I am eating noticeably fewer food products (processed or prepared foods) than before. I’m also eating out less frequently.
Why I still beat myself up about it: I still bake a lot, and no matter how well I’m able to control my regular portions, I still can’t say no to dessert. This frustrates me and makes everything I eat taste like guilt. Eating badly also makes my exercising feel futile.

Goal: Lose weight, feel strong again.
Result: I do one hour of Pilates with my trainer every week, and Erik and I go walking 3-5 days out of every week for at least 1/2 hour each time. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, my clothes fit better, and the uphill trail walking gets easier every time.
Why I still beat myself up about it: So many days I just really really don’t want to go for a walk, and Erik practically has to drag me out the door. Then when we do go, if we don’t go for a very long walk, I feel like it’s not enough. I also often feel like our walks are futile, even though I know this isn’t true, because I feel like how can half an hour really counteract the two pieces of pie I had the other day? Then I feel guilty and hopeless about both eating and exercise.

Goal: Write more.
Result: For a while I was writing almost every day, but it’s slacked off a bit. Still, I’m writing more now than ever.
Why I still beat myself up about it: I don’t really. I beat myself up very little for not writing, I guess because it’s a less urgent goal than the others.

Goal: Spend less!
Result: We now have a budget, that I’ve (mostly) been sticking to. It has really helped me avoid impulse buying, and helps me to think more about what I buy and how often I shop.
Why I still beat myself up about it: I spend a lot of time online at clothing websites lusting over the things I can’t have. Also, watching my spending so carefully makes everything a lot harder/more guilt-ridden, from grocery shopping to nesting.

Goal: Have a nice apartment. Don’t get backlogged with errands or housecleaning.
Result: We have a nice, reasonably clean apartment, and we run errands frequently to keep things in order.
Why I still beat myself up about it: A lot of the time I feel like I spend all my productive time during any given day just doing housework: washing dishes, cooking, tidying things up, going out and running errands. I like the results, but I hate feeling like the bulk of my time is taken up with these kinds of activities. If I wanted to be a housewife, I should just quit grad school and save myself the angst of my work life, which brings us to:

Goal: Actually do some work each day. Not hate what I do.
Result: At the beginning of the summer I didn’t do any work at all, most days, and I didn’t even have a good setup on my desk for working. Now, my desk is always organized and ready to go, and maybe half the time I manage to sit down at it and do at least ten minutes of work. I still can’t manage to do even two hours of work per day, usually (and I know because I’ve been keeping track), but anything is still an improvement from nothing.
Why I still beat myself up about it: Duh – I’m not doing any work! How can I manage to get through grad school on ten minutes of work a day? On a more urgent scale, how can I manage to get through the next quarter when I’ve hardly done anything over the summer? I could go on and on about this, but this is venturing into dangerous beating-myself-up territory. I need to stop going there so often.

Of all these, I think it’s clear that my work is what bothers me most and where I’ve seen the least progress. At least I’ve made it easier for myself to sit down and do something, but I still have a really hard time doing it. And when I do, I just can’t seem to shut down that voice in my head that keeps telling me how stupid and futile is everything I do. It’s crazy because I know this is a deadly cycle, but I can’t seem to step in and stop it: I think my work is pointless –> I don’t do it –> I beat myself up for not doing it –> I have nothing done, thus rendering what I’ve done so far actually pointless –> my work is pointless.

I think it’s my despair over school that gets me so depressed about the other stuff, because if I really sit down and take a look at what I’ve accomplished this summer – which I’ve sort of done by writing this entry – I’ve done a lot. I’ve shaped up my body and my eating habits, I’ve curbed the worst of my spending and I’ve kept the apartment nice. And I’ve been writing more. But since my supposed “career” is being a grad student, my feeling of failure in this field is getting me down about everything else as well. In a way it makes it even worse that I’ve been making such strides in every other area of my life: why can’t I get more work done???

So what we decided yesterday on our walk is that I need to set small goals for myself each day, goals I can easily meet, to help me get over this all-too-encompassing feeling of failure. I’ll set “peace of mind” goals, a bare minimum of things I have to do to not feel like I’ve wasted the day, and “cool” goals, things that it’d be cool to have done by the end of the day. Since my lethargy, at its worst, causes me to not do anything all day long (which makes me feel like even more of a failure), by just doing something, I won’t feel like such a failure. So last night, after we got home, I set some simple goals for myself for the evening, just to get this goal-setting business off to a good start. I had two hours before Project Runway (and OMG last night’s episode was so good, sorry digression!), and in that time I would: eat whatever I liked for dinner but have only one serving of dessert, take a shower, and brush my teeth. For “cool” goals, I would wash dishes and put away the laundry, and maybe get some work done before the show. Well, I didn’t get any work done or wash any dishes, but I did put away the laundry, eat a healthy dinner and two cookies, and I was all brushed and washed by the time I went upstairs to Jason’s to watch the show. Small things, but it felt really good to set goals and then meet them. (And lest anyone think these goals are too simple, let me tell you, at my laziest I’ve gone days without showering, gross as that is, and eating only one serving of dessert is not easy for me at all. On Tuesday I grazed on Chinese pastries and cookies all afternoon.)

This morning when I woke up, I actually felt good about the day, because I’d set some goals for today that I knew I could achieve. And I wasn’t beating myself up over what I wasn’t doing. As a result, even though it’s hot and I’m feeling pretty lethargic, I’m not despairing over what a loser I am, and that’s already a major improvement. Baby steps, baby steps.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]