Thursday, July 13, 2017

Knowing yourself: The Proust Questionnaire

Yesterday a friend published a blog post in which he gave his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, which was popularized (though not invented) by writer Marcel Proust. I'm a sucker for a good questionnaire, and this one is really interesting. Here are my answers -- now go and give it a try! You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Sitting on the deck with Richard after we've had a nice, peaceful supper -- the kids are contentedly doing their own thing and we're sipping a glass of wine and relaxing. (The winter version would be sitting in the living room doing the same thing: fireplace on, snow falling outside, nowhere else we have to be.)
  2. What is your greatest fear? Fear as in phobia: flying. My more existential fear is about what will happen to our kids when Richard and I die.
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Impatience.
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Condescension.
  5. Which living person do you most admire? General Romeo Dallaire, Jean Vanier.
  6. What is your greatest extravagance? Probably buying books, though I am not really that extravagant in general.
  7. What is your current state of mind? A little preoccupied with tonight's music practice for Sunday's church service -- but excited, not stressed.
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? "Authenticity." I do greatly value people being honest and vulnerable when it increases true connection and compassion -- but I am wary of people who seem to be self-revealing in order to get attention or praise.
  9. On what occasion do you lie? I often fudge the truth with Jonathan about what we are going to be doing; otherwise he will talk about it NON-STOP until we do it.
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? My very wide face, and my inability to tan.
  11. Which living person do you most despise? Despise is a strong word, but I do find Trump extremely disturbing. I also deplore conspiracy theorists such as people who say the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, deliberately causing even greater pain to grieving families.
  12. What is the quality you most like in others? Treating everyone they meet as equals.
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? I guess as a straight woman I'm expected to say "man" here ... but it doesn't really matter, because (regardless of gender) my answer is the same as for #12: treating everyone they meet as equals.
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? In my writing: "certainly" and "definitely." In my speech: I'm not sure -- maybe someone else will have to point out to me that I overuse a certain expression.
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? My husband and kids.
  16. When and where were you happiest? When Allison was a baby and toddler.
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? Being athletic without hurting myself. For example, I LOVE playing Frisbee, but at my age I hesitate to go all-out doing it in case I give myself a serious "weekend warrior" injury.
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I'd like to have 20/20 vision and not need glasses.
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Raising my kids without losing my mind (yet).
  20. If you were to die and come back as another person, who would it be? I found this question hard. Perhaps Laura Ingalls Wilder -- she lived such an interesting life.
  21. Where would you most like to live? I love Kingston and my neighbourhood, so I don't want to live anywhere else -- but if I had to answer, PEI.
  22. What is your most treasured possession? Old letters and cards from when I was a kid.
  23. What do you regard as your lowest depth of misery? Breakup with friend.
  24. What is your favorite occupation? Writer.
  25. What is your most marked characteristic? Sense of humour.
  26. What do you most value in friendship? Faithfulness.
  27. Who are your favorite writers? Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Strout, C.S. Lewis, Brian Doyle, John Blase ... to name only a few in a long, long list!
  28. Who is your hero in fiction? Frodo.
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with? This was also a difficult question; I haven't come up with an answer I'm happy with yet.
  30. Who are your heroes in real life? Those who serve suffering or traumatized people in difficult places around the world, such as Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), Special Hope Network, or Preemptive Love Coalition.
  31. What are your favorite names? Allison and Jonathan.
  32. What is it that you dislike the most? Having to decide every day what to make for supper, and making it.
  33. What is your greatest regret? Not giving the kids more chores and responsibilities at home. But that can change going forward.
  34. How would you like to die? Peacefully, knowing the kids are looked after.
  35. What is your motto? From The Lord of the Rings: "Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere."


  1. I had to look up your two most admired living persons, but am now glad to know these two people are alive and doing good as well as doing well. You smartified me today, Jeannie!

    1. Happy to help, Tim! Cool that they're both Canadian, too, eh? (BTW Vanier was the one who got Henri Nouwen involved with working with the handicapped at the L'Arche community in Toronto.)


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