The Proust Questionnaire

boat-water

As a little girl, you’d often find me talking to myself, pretending to answer interview questions with the likes of Oprah or Arsenio. I imagined one day I”d be a film star, media obsessed kid that I was, so practicing my interview skills seemed like a no-brainer. As much as I aspired to movie stardom, looking back I think I just liked answering questions. Maybe I had a hunch adulthood would be riddled with idle small talk. Maybe I believed my imaginary interviews were the only way I’d ever get to answer big questions. Little did I know I’d end up studying philosophy in college and get to play with all the questions!

In honor of that little girl, and because I still love answering questions, I’m sharing my answers to the Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire below. Indulge me while I pretend I’m lying on my fainting couch while Orpah asks me these, ok?

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A day at the beach that turns into an evening at the beach around a fire

What is your greatest fear?
Getting stuck in routine and losing sight of what I’m capable of.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I often default to being nice at the expense of what I really want or deserve. I’m working on it. Divorce has made me much better at not being nice. 

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Arrogance, showing off, self-centered-ness…they’re kind of in the same family, I suppose. An inability to see beyond yourself might be the category these all fall under. 

Which living person do you most admire?
Michelle Obama

What is your greatest extravagance?
I live a pretty simple life by choice so dinner out or taking the family to the movie is it these days. On an unlimited budget it would be travel.

What is your current state of mind?
Snacky

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Being stylish – that counts as a virtue, right? 

On what occasion do you lie?
When my kids lose a tooth and all through December (only in regards to the man in the red suit)

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My nails – I grew up around women who got manicures/pedicures regularly. They’d either go get them done or settle in for the night in front of the TV to do it themselves. And before nail art became a thing, they were doing reverse French manicures. I always loved watching their hands as a kid. They always seemed so elegant. They still do. 

What living person do you most despise?
He who shall not be named and who will no longer be in the spotlight come November 9th. 

What is the quality you most like in a man?
I love when a man has  a balance of both masculine and feminine energy, at the risk of sounding kinky, equal parts hard and soft. Oh, and a deep respect and awe for women…is there a word for that? The complete opposite of a misogynist? Let’s make one up. 

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
An inclination towards sisterhood, with an eye always on “how can I lift you up “

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Did you hear me?” Because I’m with my daughters all the time.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My daughters and my abuelo…and stories. 

When and where were you happiest?
After the 1st Listen To Your Mother Providence, the cast and their families gathered at a local restaurant. I had the husband of one of the speakers come up to me and thank me (and my co-producer/director) for doing the show. He said his wife had come alive in a way she hadn’t in a long time and it made him so happy. It was beautiful the way I felt in that moment, that something I did had made someone light up and tap into their own magic. I’m still very proud of that moment. 

Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to sing. I’d like big pipes so I could belt out tunes or a raspy, jazzy voice. 

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to conjure up good comebacks on the spot. I suck at it now. I always think of the perfect thing to say hours, days, years later. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising daughters who are kind and brave. 

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?
A female version of Wolverine just so I could heal from anything and live longer.

Where would you most like to live?
By the sea

What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t put a lot of value on things. But it would have to be a toss up between my mom’s ring that has a giant blue stone set in silver that looks like it dripped into place. It reminds me of my childhood and the parties we always went to. The other would be keepsake boxes I have from my own childhood and from my daughters’ early years plus some photo albums of my family when they were young in Cuba.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
A world with no books or movies

What is your favorite occupation?
I found a woman online who is a family historian. She talks to people and captures their family story. Then she creates a book out of their stories. I didn’t even know this was a thing and now I just want to do what she does. That and being a minister who marries people and leads special ceremonies. I have friend who does it and I’m in awe that she gets to do that work. Both seem like the perfect way to marry my love of stories, words, and ritual. 

What is your most marked characteristic?
I’ve been told I have an expressive face, especially my eyebrows. It takes a great deal of self-control to not let my face do the talking. 

What do you most value in your friends?
Their loyalty despite the distance and time that goes by.

Who are your favorite writers?
I don’t tend to stick to authors. I follow the stories. But I did recently notice the books I haven’t been able to put down in recent years were all written by women, in particular women of color. Most recently Brit Bennett, Cynthia Bond, Jung Yun, Anita Diamant. 

Who is your hero of fiction?
Bethsheba Everdine because I’m a romantic. 

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Frida Kahlo, there’s something about her search for depth and her wild spirit that resonates with me. 

Who are your heroes in real life?
I’m still fangirling the Final Five and Leslie Jones

What are your favorite names?
I have a small obsession with names. I keep a running list, I’m not sure for what, but just in case. For boys, Balthazar and Ezra always win me over. And for girls, Allegra and Anais. My list is much longer but these are tops for me. 

What is it that you most dislike?
Complaining without offering solutions

What is your greatest regret?
I used to be one of those people who said I didn’t have regrets, only lessons I’d learned. Call it what you want, today I regret/have learned a lot from my first marriage.

How would you like to die?
Peacefully 

What is your motto?
It’s all love. You either choose love or you don’t. You either step towards it or away from it. 

Special thanks to Lindsey at A Design So Vast for inspiring this post. Her blog is one of my favorites to visit. If you’re a lover of words, you should definitely make your way over there.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

An Invitation

bench

My divorce was brutal. Not because my divorce in particular was so hard; but because divorce in general is a massive clusterfuck.

Divorce and its aftermath have made this space incredibly quiet. Writing has always been my way of gaining clarity and direction. So not writing about it has been stifling. I have an abundance of stories to tell about this experience. However, when you’re living through something rarely talked about and deeply personal, it feels like a huge risk to say the things in public.

I’m fortunate enough to have a wonderful group of women online who are single mothers by divorce; and have provided me with a heart-centered space to talk about this journey. They offer me sisterhood. They are part of the story I tell myself about this experience. These women, and a handful of IRL friends, have been my sounding board.

What I’ve lacked, though, is the space to listen to me. I need to spend more time on the story I tell myself about divorce and single motherhood. In the beginning, with legal proceedings on the horizon, I wasn’t sure what was fair game to share and what wasn’t. Then when all was said and done, I didn’t know how to start writing without pointing fingers. I had to get over some emotional hurdles to get to a place where the story would be entirely my own. And so, here I am.

I’m taking back this space. Too few heart-centered words are written about divorce and single motherhood. Yes, divorce is brutal but what comes after can be as beautiful as I make it. The story I tell myself, the story I write heals the wounds and helps me face the light.

I don’t want to do it alone. Sisterhood and storytelling are powerful medicine. So this is an invitation to join me once a week to be inspired by writing prompts on divorce and single motherhood.

Every Tuesday I’ll share my own post and include a writing prompt for the following week. At the bottom of each post you can link up to your blog post.
Topics will range from the serious to the silly because it’s a roller coaster ride, right?

For November, because of #NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), I’m listing all four writing prompts today in case there are folks out there who are planning out their posts for the month.

11/8 – How do you spend your time while your kids are away? Some moms struggle with being away from their kids, while others relish in the time off. How do you deal with those feelings? How has it changed over time? Go into as much or as little detail as you want.

11/15 – Write an honest dating profile. You don’t ever have to use it but write down what you’re really looking for in a partner. Mine may just include a spooning partner for the winter months.

11/22 – In the spirit of the season, what are the lessons you’re most grateful for from your divorce?

11/29 – It takes a village, right? Have you found your people, online or IRL? How have you built a community of support for yourself? Or are you trying to figure that out?

Get writing!

NaBloPoMo November 2016

A Love Letter To Creativity

babyelephant

Dear Creativity,

Thank you
for being a constant and loyal visitor.
Too often I’ve told you
“not now,”
“there isn’t any time.”
But you are patient and persistent.

Continue to ignore me;
you know my dreams better than I do.

I’m a fickle lover these days.
I’m still learning to love us.

I know
idle hands are your kryptonite;
perfection your enemy.
I’m working to stay far away from these.

I know
creating is your love language.
I will make and do and be.
I will make a practice out of loving you.
My life will be an act of love for you,
for me.

Out of thin air,
we will create something that has never been.

Magic,
that’s what this love is.
That’s what we are together.

Let’s play.

Always stubborn but working on it,
Carla

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Co-Parenting Through The Holidays

I’m grateful beyond measure for getting divorced but that doesn’t mean life is a breeze now. Despite the gifts divorce has given me, it’s also a challenging, emotionally draining, and isolating experience. My anecdote for this trinity of struggle is to comfort myself with stories. I look for books, movies, blogs, anything to remind me I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last to get through whatever the current very sucky chapter of divorce is. A lovely side effect of turning to stories is I usually catch an idea which serves my current situation or at least inspires me on how to approach the issue at hand.

This time of year, knee deep into the holiday season, is  a prime example of a time where been-there-done-that and going-through-it-now stories come in handy.

This is our third holiday season as divorced parents. The first was an awkward attempt at reassuring my daughters they’d still be connected to their family and the second was less than ideal. This year looks to be our best effort so far. There is no right way to do things when you’re divorced. What works one year may not work the following year. Priorities and schedules change, relationships shift, and life happens.

The folks over at VProud.TV put together a video about co-parenting during the holidays. It’s the kind of thing I wish I had when we first separated. I’m already taking mental notes for next year.

When I come across content like this I get a little click happy. A voice inside squeals, “My people!” and I start hopping around the internet to see what these single moms have to say. If you’re as hungry for single mom voices as I am, you can find the women in this video here, here, here, and here.

Bedtime Magic

Bedtime has changed dramatically during my tenure as a mother. What started with swaddling so tight I bore holes into their muslin blankets has evolved into spooning by moonlight and feather light whispers about the meaning of life, or just who made them smile at school today. Something about bedtime drowsiness renders them particularly vulnerable and exceptionally eager to spill the beans, so I take advantage.

A few years ago, while we were still homeschooling, there wasn’t any necessary rush to our bedtime routine. I had three questions I asked every night –

1. What are you grateful for?
2. Who did you help today?
3. What’s one thing you love about yourself?

The minutes would tick past 7:30pm and I wouldn’t blink an eye (unless The Mindy Project or Pretty Little Liars was on, of course, then one word answers were totally acceptable). Now, after homework and dinner and prepping for the next day and just one more book and that song they love, bedtime feels more rushed than I’d like.

After the last book, we each share what we’re most grateful for that day. That’s one question that’s constant in our repertoire. Once the lights are out, I divide my time with each girl. I alternate who I start with each night because it’s almost certain while I’m waxing poetic with one, the other will drift off to sleep before we can have a heart to heart.

I don’t plan the questions I’ll ask. Who has time for that? But I do read a lot about parenting so when I come across a good question to ask kids, I make a mental note. I find questions in blog posts, parenting books, magazines, and most recently in journal prompts. A friend recently shared on Facebook how much she loves talking with her daughters at bedtime. We all mother in our own unique way but we share many common joys and from the looks of the comments she got on her post, bedtime is one of those universal gifts. Her post made me really curious about the questions other parents ask.

Here are the questions regularly making the rounds at our home plus the ones that really make my girls light up:

  • Who made you laugh at school today?
  • Did anyone help you at school today?
  • If you could travel around the world with only one friend from school, who would it be?
  • If you could have your own restaurant, what kind of food would you serve? What would you call it?
  • If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  • What job would you never, ever want to do?
  • If you wrote a children’s book, what would it be about? What would you call it?
  • Where do you think you will live when you grow up?
  • Were you able to help anyone at school today?
  • What’s the most interesting thing you learned in school today?
  • What do you want to dream about tonight?
  • What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
  • What superpower would you want?
  • If you found $100, what would you do with it?
  • If you could learn to do something new, what would it be?
  • If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • Who made you feel loved today?
  • Who was unkind to you today?
  • What animal would you want to be?
  • If you could build a superhero team, which 3 friends would you want by your side?
  • What do you love most about yourself?

And while we’re at it, I’ll share a few other things we do at bedtime to make it special. We don’t do these every night; they happen once in a blue moon as a treat:

  • Years ago I started giving them massages while I asked them our nightly questions. I’d take out a special lotion and rub their feet while we listened to each other’s answers.
  • When the energy is running high, I have them lie down and I say goodnight to them from their toes to the tops of their head. I rub each part of the body and give it a kiss, saying goodnight to each (goodnight toes, goodnight legs, goodnight tummy, etc.). The best is getting up to their sweet faces and kissing their little lashes.
  • Other times, when it looks like they’re having a hard time falling asleep, I tell my girls to lie still, eyes closed, and silently thank each part of their body for it’s hard work and then say goodnight to it (for example, thank you feet for allowing me to climb at the park, goodnight). Since this is something they do on their own, I can’t be certain they actually do it but the smiles on their faces always make me think they at least try.
  • It’s been ages since we did this but for awhile I used to light a candle and we’d take turns making a wish and blowing it out. Once everyone had a turn, we’d blow it out together.

All of this in addition to our nightly bedtime book(s) plus a song they love and some whispered blessings in their ear. Bedtime ain’t no joke, people. It’s my last chance each day to redeem myself for lost tempers, elusive patience, checking my phone too often, saying no more than yes, rushing, for being imperfect. Our quirky mash up of rituals anchors me to the moment, each one sinking me deeper into the present. It’s not perfect every night but we try to make it feel a little bit like magic.

What’s funny is this is nothing like bedtime was for me as a kid. I’d kiss my parents goodnight then tuck myself in and fall asleep to the sound of my television in the background. If my godmother was visiting, she’d read me a bedtime book and her husband would ask me math questions before turning out the lights. No one lied with me until I fell asleep, there were no songs, but somehow there was no lack of magic. So there’s no right way. What’s bedtime like in your home? I’d love to know what questions, conversation starters, and rituals make bedtime magical in your home.