Proust Questionnaire: JB Edition

Jenny Blake & Monica McCarthy at Central ParkI had the great pleasure of attending my dear friend Monica's latest Cheshire Parlour on Sunday—a curated dinner discussion on Freedom, with a small group of well-known authors, artists and activists. That's us pictured at right in our proudest #SELFIE moment at Central Park. But it was her latest Cheshire Parlour Newsletter that provided the inspiration for today's blog post: my own take on Proust's Questionnaire, a set of questions first answered by Marcel Proust in 1890. This post is a bit more self-indulgent-feeling than usual, but hey—life would be boring if we just talked about business all the time!

Proust Questionnaire: JB Edition

My principal virtue / aspect of my personality: I'm a giver. I place great importance on others' thoughts, feelings, needs, and experiences. It is a natural inclination; good in healthy doses, but taken too far is definitely a weakness and a source of stress.

The quality that I desire in a man: Strength, kindness and humor, with a healthy dose of old-school chivalry: opening doors, walking me home, walking on the outside of the sidewalk, and placing actual phone calls to make plans :)

The quality that I desire in a woman: Effervescent grace. A warm, beautiful smile and spirit, shared as openly with other women as with men. Generosity, great hugs, and the ability to listen well and hear even what isn't being said. My good friend Sara is amazing at all of the above!

What I appreciate most about my friends: The qualities I mentioned in the question above. I appreciate the simplicity of our interactions and support for each other: talking over sunset in the park, ice cream in DUMBO, deep conversation over a long dinner, walking as we people-watch and hash out life's many peculiarities.

My main fault: I'm very sensitive, and an energy sponge. Even if I don't say anything in the moment, I often pick up on the subtlest clues to get a "read" on a situation. This can make me a great friend, partner and coach, but it can also turn me into a completely anxious worrier and over-thinker: Did I say the right things? Did I listen well enough? What could I have done differently? My emotions are always broadcast front-and-center across my face (and in my tone of voice) too; not always a good thing.

My favorite occupation: The one I've got!

My dream of happiness: Feeling grateful for my life exactly as it is on any given day. A sense of equanimity and peaceful joy that would eclipse and override the bouts of melancholy.

What would be my greatest misfortune? Spending my days worrying about tiny imperfections and anxieties. Faulting myself more than necessary.

What I should like to be: Graceful, ebullient, resilient; a lighthouse of inspiration, ideas and encouragement.

The country where I should like to live: My two soul cities: Ubud, Bali and New York City. If I could split my time each year between the two, I'd be thrilled!

My favorite color: True blue (Go Bruins!) and French fuchsia

The flower that I like: Pink Stargazer Lilies

My favorite bird: Eagles: for their perspective, patience, and grace

My favorite authors: Lao Tzu, Chögyan Trungpa, Rainer Maria Rilke, Martha Beck, John Welwood, Nassim Taleb

My heroes in fiction: I'm going to cheat and say Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey archetype. No matter whose story is expressing it, I love the greater pattern behind it all, and how well it articulates the human experience of change and personal growth.

My favorite heroine: Wonder Woman. Kick-ass female figure with a great outfit, and brunette to boot! Here's the awesome rendition Sarah Peck drew for me a few years ago :)

My favorite composers: My uncle, the violinist and founder of the Kronos Quartet (you may be most familiar with their work on the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack). This year marks their 40th anniversary—four decades of inspiration and innovation.

My favorite painters: My dad! Check out some of his amazing artwork.

My heroes in real life. My immediate and extended family: I've learned so much from each of them, and am grateful for them every single day.

What I hate most of all: Disrespect, violence, littering, lying, selfishness, pessimism.

The reform which I admire the most: I'm thrilled to finally see marriage equality reform making progress at a national level. A native San Franciscan, I grew up feeling strongly that this was the civil rights issue of our generation: it was shocking to me that even after knocking down laws that segregated based on race we would keep those that discriminated against people based on sexual orientation.

The gift of nature that I would like to have: Patience! Everything unfolding in due time. Nobody tries to rush a tree.

How I want to die: Peacefully, and with no regrets about treating others with kindness, love and grace. Knowing that I made a positive impact on others' lives during the time I lived.

My present state of mind: Reflective.

Faults for which I have the most indulgence: Crying easily, as a result of feeling so sensitive toward the world and my place in it. And eating sugar! Gotta get back on my Kick the Crutch wagon on that one. :)

My motto: Build first, then your courage will follow. Stop expecting the courage to come first! Once you start taking small brave steps, the universe will reward you with a courage "cookie"—a sign that you're on the right track. At least that's how I like to think about things :)

That's me . . . what's your version?

I propose we do a mini-Proust chain—if you reply to any of these questions on your own blog (or Facebook page, for that matter!) throw a link in the comments below! You can also expedite the process by taking Vanity Fair's interactive version here.

I look forward to hearing what makes all of you tick!