Lately I’ve gotten into podcasts. They were never my thing, but lately they’re clicking for me. Maybe I’ve finally found the right ones.
One that I’m loving is Harder To Kill Radio from Steph Gaudreau. I have a massive girl crush on her. And at the end of each she puts her interviewee through the “Gauntlet” – a series of rapid-fire questions.
So, especially if you remember the Proust Questionnaire or any of the other quizzes, you’ll be unsurprised that I was compelled to answer them too.
(I made two of my friends do one of those Love Languages quizzes last week too.)
(Fun facts: their languages were, respectively, acts of service and touch. Me: I was a three-way tie between time, words, and touch. I need them all. Man, am I high maintenance.)
But without further ado, the Gauntlet:
Every day I start my morning with…?
A quiet alarm, an immediate roll out of bed, a scroll through my phone, my medicine.
I really have to work on that phone bit.
Favorite guilty pleasure?
I feel so guilty about so many of the things that give me pleasure that there isn’t time or space to get into it.
Food you hate to prepare?
Frying anything always burns me. Couscous gets all over. Canning is a sticky disaster. Cake pops are a hellacious mess. I hate them all. That may be unfair: I may just be messy in the kitchen. But I do love baking. I find it soothing. And I’m relatively neat about it.
I’m specially into cauliflower lately, but, in a turn of events my teenage self would never have believed, I love most vegetables. Offhand I can’t think of any that I dislike.
Favorite fermented food?
Sauerkraut. I’ve been eating a startling amount of sauerkraut.
The special omelette at Quadrant Book Mart, with crispy bacon, hash browns, tea. AND hot cocoa if I’m feeling unusually decadent. If you mean favorite like the absolute best meal I’ve ever had, the three best I can think of were at DeWolf Tavern in Bristol, RI; Boucherie in New Orleans; and Megu in New York.
Best place you’ve ever traveled?
Ugh. It’s impossible to narrow this down. I’ve loved being in many places. But I feel like the best is whatever is next. There are so many heart-stopping places in this world and I’ve only seen the tiniest handful. There will always be a drop of nomad in me.
I got a call to tell me that I was getting a work promotion, as I was walking out of my successful master’s thesis defense. That was a fantastic moment, professionally and academically. And, personally, I had a moment once when someone told me that I’d done something important for their life – and hearing that mattered a great deal to me.
If you were stuck on a desert island, what three things would you want?
Sunblock. Water filter. Protein bars.
What book are you reading right now?
In any given week I pick up and reread bits of a dozen old favorites, but in addition, right now I’m reading Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare.
A book you dig?
Pride and Prejudice. Yes it’s a classic, and yes it’s romantic, and yes the words are perfect – but that’s not why I love it. I love it because it is both sarcastic and kind. And because it’s not about people who find their loved one perfect. You see them develop their senses of humor – learn their own weaknesses and each other’s. They realize that the other is their best balance, that the other is the one who can best help them deal with the tiresome fools that make up the rest of life. I may be editorializing. But that’s why I like it.
A mindfulness practice that you love to do?
Meditation is the mindfulness practice that makes the biggest difference for me. It literally feels different in my head when I’m in a good habit of meditating. It is, without exaggeration, life-changing. But I find it difficult emotionally. I find it easier to be mindful while I’m running or doing yoga. And I have a mindfulness cue that I use when I’m falling asleep. So I have a few mindfulness practices. I believe mindfulness may be the most foundational health focus, more so than exercise or nutrition or anything – but, like anything that matters, it isn’t easy.
What superhero skill would you like to have?
Weapon of choice in the zombie apocalypse?
Advice you wish you could have given yourself at 20 years old?
Save more money. Ask for more help. Don’t commit. Don’t come back.
One of the most important things you learned as a child?
How not to be bored.
What do you think is the most important ingredient to building unbreakable humans?
An internal locus of control. Man, do I get het up about this one. It just matters so much.
See, many people would make different life choices to mine. Likely often better ones. But the crazy gift I have is that it’s MINE. My life, my problems, my choices. Free will is the biggest, scariest, most important thing any of us will ever get. I understand the impulse to pretend you’re stuck, that you’re beholden, that you’re in thrall, that it’s out of your control. I have that impulse too. I understand that it’s easy to notice when other people do this, and miss when you do. I have that one too.
But at the end of the day, the only way to be happy is to own your own life. Every terrifying goddamn minute of it. Because every minute we aren’t, we are wasting the only thing we’ve ever been freely given. (For more in this intensely opinionated vein: Suggestibility and Being Elitist (2016) and Fix Your Whole Life By Stopping Eight Things (2013).)
There’s the Gauntlet. Leaving only one question unanswered: why can’t I resist a questionnaire?