Perfect Happiness and Other Questions

My local paper, the Morning Call, asked me to answer these questions, from a book called Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire, which Rodale published last year. It’s a great book, featuring cultural figures from Jane Goodall to Johnny Cash answering a series of personal questions made popular by the French writer Marcel Proust (their answers appeared in a series in Vanity Fair magazine). It’s lots of fun to answer the questions, and the process really makes you think. So here are my answers; how would YOU answer them? You can respond in the comments section below, if you like.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A day in my own bed, the window open to the fresh country air, with coffee and a good book, and my family all present and accounted for (although not, perhaps, in my bed the whole day).

What is your most marked characteristic?

I hope it’s my sense of humor. But it’s probably my dogged determination. My husband says that I’m an original thinker (I love him!).

What is your favorite occupation?

Creating. (Writing, designing, organizing, strategizing, building, developing…creating.)

What is your greatest fear?


If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I were motivated to exercise more often and more strenuously.

What is your most treasured possession?

My bed (it’s organic and very, very comfortable).

What is it that you most dislike?


What is your favorite journey?

Home. (But I do love a good family vacation somewhere new and interesting. This summer we’re going to Nashville!)

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Fairness. Life is just not fair, and as soon as we accept that, things vastly improve and, ironically, feel more fair.

What is your greatest regret?

That I missed seeing Sugarland, for free, at Mayfair, the week before they hit the big time! I’ll never get over it. But also, I regret the pain that has been caused by business decisions that have been made in the past (even if the decisions were the right ones).

What is the quality you most like in a man?


What is the quality you most like in a woman?


If you were to come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

A tree. Or maybe a rock. Or a humpback whale.

What do you regard as the lowest depths of misery?

Losing a loved one.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

All the romance heroes and heroines written by my favorite romance authors, starting with Roarke Beauchamp (from Shanna, by Kathleen Woodiwiss), who was my first hero. And Dagny Taggart, from Atlas Shrugged.

Who are your heroes in real life?

From history: Elizabeth I. She reigned over the longest period of peace and prosperity in Britain’s history.

From modern times: Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia. Not only does he run the most forward-thinking environmentally clean clothing company, but he manages to find plenty of time to surf, climb mountains, fish and basically enjoy life while giving back a tremendous amount. He is also (as I’ve told him) my fashion icon. He calls his style ”dirtbag.”

What is your current state of mind?

Focused, calm, determined, and, ultimately, optimistic. Accompanied by a persistent wish that I had more time to clean up my house.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Raising my three daughters into independent, funny, and delightful women (although the little one is only 3, she shows all the signs of the above traits).

What is your motto?

In all things, love.

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7 Responses to Perfect Happiness and Other Questions

  1. Dana B. January 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Great pointed questions that say so much about you, Maria! What a fun read. I’m definitely thinking of what my answers would be!

  2. laura January 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    I love this answer, Maria:
    “If you were to come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?” “A tree. Or maybe a rock. Or a humpback whale.”

    I don’t know what I would come back as. I must ponder this.

    Also, I’m going to Nashville this weekend, for the 1st time.

  3. Tony January 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    I wish Eve would show me this delightful nature some time. 😉

  4. Melissa in Ontario January 21, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    What is your most treasured possession?

    – A green candy dish that belonged to my grandmother. She lived 5 hours away from us in a small town (Walkerton, Ontario) and as soon as we got there my brother and I would look in the living room to see what kind of candy was waiting for us in that dish. It’s easily 60 years old and isn’t worth anything but it will always hold some of the best memories I have of my grandmother and the time my family and I spent visiting her in that house.

  5. Donna in Delaware January 21, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    1. PERFECT HAPPINESSS- A peaceful world where everyone got along.

    2. MOST MARKED CHARACTERISTIC- I hope that it is my kindness-always
    thinking of others and giving.

    3. FAVORITE OCCUPATION-Gardening, writing, drawing, baking.

    4. GREATEST FEAR-Dying violently.


    6. MOST TREASURED POSSESSION-My childhood memories. They were
    happy, carefree times spent with my grandparents and other family

    7. WHAT I MOST DISLIKE-Hypocrisy.

    8. FAVORITE JOURNEY-Home. As much as I travel, there’s no place like
    home. I want to kiss the ground every time I arrive safely home.

    9. MOST OVERRATED VIRTUE- I would love to say ‘justice’,but that isn’t a
    virtue, unfortunately. Patience. Very few people seem to have it

    10. GREATEST REGRET- Not finishing art school.

    11. QUALITY MOST LIKED IN A MAN-Strong character/gentleness.

    12. QUALITY MOST LIKED IN A WOMAN- Some modesty.

    13. PERSON OR THING TO COME BACK AS-A meadow of wildflowers.

    14. LOWEST DEPTH OF MISERY-Losing a loved one and favorite pet.

    15. Hero of fiction-Emma?

    16. REAL LIFE HEROES-Harriet Tubman,Winston Churchill, Elizabeth I,
    Eleanor Roosevelt, all women who fought for women’s rights.

    17. CURRENT STATE OF MIND- Calm, hopeful.

    18. GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT- To love unconditionally.

    19. MOTTO- She hast done what she could.

  6. Donna in Delaware January 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    I seem to have left out some other real-life heroes:
    JESUS(not that Jesus is an afterthought, just making that clear).
    CHARLES SULLENBERGER(I hope that I got the name correct).
    Many others.

    MOTTO: If you are going through hell keep going.(compliments of Winston Churchill). My last motto seemed like an epitaph.

  7. Jess January 27, 2010 at 10:57 am #

    Yvon Chouinard is my hero too: best company to work for, great clothes, and of course, pioneer of rock climbing..

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