Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I am in a fog. That’s because, for the second time this year, I have given up coffee. I like really strong coffee. And I have been able to, pretty easily, give it up when I felt like it. My boyfriend says that he already knows what he’d have to do to give up coffee. He would have to have nothing he needed to accomplish for five days and he would have constant headaches. And he would have to be lying down for most of the day. But not me, I told him. I can do it relatively painlessly and when I want to.

But then this morning, two days in, I woke up in this fog. I am walking around like I’m in water, no - under water and the water is thicker than water. It’s a soup. I can’t think very quickly and I want to sleep every minute. I just took Mulan to her violin class and I actually did fall asleep while she was playing, and I woke up with a jerk as she and her teacher shouted “Hurray!” because she had completed some string of notes without a mistake. I had drool on my cheek.

Oh god, is it coffee that has prevented me from early old-agehood???

This is probably not exactly the best state-of-mind to be in to begin writing my blog again. But here I am.

Well, the show was filmed and now I am getting it ready to submit to film festivals. My dream would be to go with it to Telluride and to Toronto, but – at least as far as Telluride goes, it’s a long shot. But I am feeling optimistic, in general, about the play as a film. I am also in a huge state of relief. I have two more shows I’ve committed to, in Chicago, in June. But after that, I’m not sure if I want to keep performing the show. I mean, maybe I’ll miss it and want to do a show or two in the fall, but we will see.

In the meantime, I am organizing my house and recovering from everything. At this moment, Mulan is seated next to me and she is doing her two-digit-subtraction homework.

Today I walked over to Jill Sobule’s house (she lives only a few blocks away) with my dog Arden, and we talked about our show. Now that I have “Letting Go of God” shot, I will concentrate on our show, “The Jill & Julia Show.” We also hope to film our show, possibly as early as December. In any case, we were goofing around and we started to write a song for “Letting Go of God” the movie, and it was so much fun. I could maybe use this song for the final credits or something. Jill came up with a great tune for the chorus and then I’m sort of Rex Harrison-ing it by talking about the whole religion quest. It was funny. She recorded it and we’re going to work on it. It might turn into something.

Yesterday I spent a half an hour talking to Roseanne Barr on her radio show that is recorded out of Las Vegas. She is very much against religion, but calls herself “spiritual.” (I think I do too – I go back and forth on that one, whether I should be using that name or not.) Anyway, I like Roseanne. She did an early Pat sketch with me on Saturday Night Live, so I’ve known her for a while. I like it when she comes on Bill Maher. I like how much she doesn’t care what people think about what she thinks. She always makes me laugh when she is on that show. Anyway, she mentioned in the radio show that she had had a religious type of experience at a very young age and that this made her believe in a supernatural type of god type something. And of course I also had these types of experiences. She said she didn’t need to debate over proof of God or not because this experience made it real for her. Even though she is very down on any type of organized religion, as I said. Anyway, we only touched on this topic for a moment, but I did ask her if she were interested in whether she wanted to know more about the experience she had. And she said, “If you can’t trust your personal experience, what can you trust?” Which I took for, “No.”

And this got me thinking and chewing on this idea for the rest of the day. And that is, one of the biggest upsets on my particular journey, is that I learned not to trust everything I had experienced. I guess it boils down to that old adage, the one I have seen on a bumper sticker. And that is: Don’t believe everything you think.

It’s hard to get people to second-guess their experiences. Or to look at them critically. And when the result is something that has only been perceived as beneficial to them (like in this case, believing in God) then why do I even want to get them to second guess it?

Well of course, I do want them to. Because that leads to one of the most startling discoveries, that our experiences are so… biased! And so… unreliable! And morphing!

And it is hard to get your bearings about yourself and what you even think after you realize this. Or at least this was true for me.

I just read “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert. It’s funny and insightful and oh – all of you should read it right away! Actually it’s even better on audio. You can download it from audible.com or iTunes. He reads it himself. He deals a lot with this topic – not about religion, but how we sell ourselves to ourselves and how we construct narratives that make our experiences make sense – even when those narratives are probably wrong. The other book I’ve just finished is Carol Tavris’ “Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me.” Also, fantastic.

And then, I’ve seen a couple of movies that I have liked very much. “The Year of the Dog” and “Once.” Molly Shannon is fantastic in “The Year of the Dog.” I think she should get an Academy Award nomination for it. To me, it’s a movie about learning how to find your place in the world. Plus, it’s hysterical. And then, “Once” – an Irish film about two musicians, made me want to move to Dublin immediately. In fact, when the movie ended, I wanted to jump up and object to the screen – I had moved myself into that movie and it was unfair to just dump me out into my seat at the theater just like that. No, no, no. I wanted it to go on and on.

That’s all. I am really going to try to write much more often.


April said...

It's so easy to trust your own experience. But if you have ever read about how unreliable eyewitness accounts are, you realize how untrustworthy your own experience is. Once I was with several people who witnessed a crime. Literally less than five minutes later when the police arrived, we could not agree on the color of the truck involved. How could we not agree on the color of the truck? There were three of us and one truck and two different colors: green or black. And we had all clearly seen it right in front of us. But in reality, there was only one truck and one or two of us was wrong -- although we won't ever really know who.

Mark said...

I look forward to another flurry of public hand-wringing when the "Letting Go" movie comes out. I got the CD for myself for Christmas and gave another one to my cousin. It is such an affecting show, and so NOT the kind of thing people complain about when they say that Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris are too strident and dismissive.

Anyway, thanks for that. I've always been kind of a reluctant atheist, but I don't feel so guilty about it any more.

Oh -- you might try hot tea, my own choice of poison. Less caffeine, and they say it's better for you anyway -- although, what do they know?

Audra said...

My boyfriend and I listened to Letting Go Of God today together as we crossed Newfoundland on a bus. We want to thank you for it (he might post tomorrow, he's got a lot to say on the topic). We spent a lot of time just now talking about how wishing more people were like you. It's amazing to have such a commitment to only wanting to believe things that were true.


Heidi said...

I weaned myself from coffee (the strong Pacific NW kind!) by drinking less and less, then taking migraine relief pills (they have caffeine) and taking smaller doses of those. I hardly had any withdrawal.

Keep the faith ;) once you're through withdrawal you should be able to be more alert. I was amazed at how much more energy I found from drinking NO coffee, and my brain works better. I'm less scatterbrained.

Elayne said...

Please do try to write more often; your posts are a breath of fresh air!

I have a notoriously fluid memory, and have long since decided not to trust it. I think you can still learn from experiences without necessarily assuming they 100% happened the way you remember them.

Dame Wendy said...

Hey! Glad to see you back on the blog. :)I kind of dropped out of the forum loop awhile back so it was great to see a new blog from you.

Hope you're having a great day!

Anonymous said...

Have you read Roseanne Barr's blog? It kinda sounds like the copy on a Dr. Bronner's soap bottle. It's at http://www.roseanneworld.com and you should read down a few pages. I used to admire her but I think she's gone kinda cuckoo-nutzo-crazypants lately.

Anonymous said...

Why do you abstain from your coffee addiction? Isn't that stress on your body to go on and off. If you like the coffee, stick with it and stop shocking your system.

It is to choose ignorance for anybody to back away from learning more about their experiences.

Kazim said...

I've heard about these "religious type of experiences" many times. As often as not, the person will not elaborate on their experience for fear of being criticized. And with good reason: When people do explain their "aha" moment with God, they often turn out to be very, very lame. I mean things like "I was late for an interview because I couldn't find my car keys. Then I prayed to God and I found them."

It's easy to pick apart those kinds of experiences -- i.e., "People find their own car keys all the time! Why would you assume that this particular case was an example of the laws of the universe bending to suit you?" But you certainly can't argue with a vague, unspecified spirtual experience, nor should you be asked to.

Did Roseanne tell you what it was she found so convincing of God's existence? If she was reluctant to do that, why would she find it surprising that anyone might doubt the true supernatural significance of whatever it was that happened to her?

Lino Evgueni said...

Maybe is time for you to work on "Letting Go of Coffee."

I've already said goodbye to God... but I don't think I'll be able to get rid of coffee that easily.

Rikoala said...

thank you JS. i love your blog. i also love your use of the word 'blather'... sounds more fun... like a soapy way of going on and on and on and... well, anyway, thanks... you're terrific

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to download an MP3 file of Roseanne's radio show with Julia Sweeney on May 21, 2007.

If that doesn't work for you, go to this page and scroll down to May 21, 2007:


Comments about the May 21st show posted on Roseanne's website:


Anonymous said...

Sorry's here's the correct link to download an MP3 file of Roseanne's radio show with Julia Sweeney on May 21, 2007.

In the previous post I actually inserted the May 22nd link -- sorry!

Petra said...

Religious experiences.

Yeah, I had one at a baptism... more than a thousand people all praying for one tiny little baby. I was moved to tears and for a split second, I questioned my non-belief in a god.

Then I remembered I had the same moving feeling at an Amway Convention.

Glad you're "back" here, Julia!

: ) P

Anonymous said...

I really like your work, uh job, well what is it exactly that you do? Anyway, I am a big fan of it whateever it is. So keep doing it, please. Your fan, Kel Brady

Anonymous said...

I came to the filming of your show in L.A. on May 5th. I wish we could just sit and talk for hours about the whole God, religion, spirituality thing. It is so refreshing and stimulating to speak with a person who THINKS! I enjoyed your show and when you spoke candidly with the audience during the little breaks. I have been contemplating many of the points that you presented in your show. Some of my views are different from yours, but I totally respect you and your journey on this road of searching for the "real truth". There is so much we do not know, but one thing is certain. The world would be a much better place if every person on earth would just think more, use their brain to consider, rather than blindly following a religion, political party, family sytem, whatever. Thank you Julia for the inspiration, and for motivating me to think for myself more completely, and also to take responsibilty for what I believe and why. I like what you said about the Jewish way of questioning. Have you read the book "Raising A Thinking Child" by Myrna B. Shure, Ph.D.? I You're terrific and hilarious. The funniest moment in the show for me was when you imitated your cat laying around in her last days...absolutely hysterical! your face and voice was just brilliantly funny.

Anonymous said...

hi Julia. love you. love the work. the skit you did with jimmy smits on SNL was the best thing i've ever seen on that show. just thought i'd get that off my chest.

BEST ALTERNATIVE TO COFFEE: grapefruit juice. really. tart and tangy, it kinda wakes you up, puts a wee bit o' sugar in your blood, and makes sense first thing in the morning because it's usually served with coffee at breakfast. in any event, it used to work for me when i couldn't get my hands on the joe.

kim said...

Hi Julia,

Don't try the coffee lonzenges. You know, the one's from the 70's that gave people really bad coffee breath.

I won't be giving up coffee as long as I have to work full time. I'm 39 now, so let's see...forty years to go.

Kim in Chicago.

MuseMe said...

What I find facinating about personal experience is that you can only have it once. Every time you try to retell it, reconstruct it or have it again, it becomes a whole DIFFERENT experiance. I can feel connected to the universe in a supernatural way when I am sitting on a rock over looking the Grand Canyon,but if I come again, sit on that SAME rock, I may not have the same experience at all. I may not be "present" to the canyon, I may be thinking about an argument that I just had, or an itch I have, or bills that need paying, or how cold it is. It's NOT all context. What is that mysterious and wonderful thing that happens when I am minding my own business, focused on what I am doing, when I lift my eyes, see someone that I have never seen in my life and am washed over with desire? What IS that connection? Or I smell a perfume and some emotional moment long forgotten, embedded somewhere in my gray matter, causes me to feel deeply sad. Experience is dangerous, provocative, mind bending, and reassuring. It's good to be alive! Routine can be sacred but it can also be numbing. I think the nature of God/god is the nature of being human. Vain, insecure, angry, yearning, hopeful, powerful, violent, revengeful, forgiving, loyal, romantic, lustful, timid, confident, controlling, demanding, loving, kind. It's ALL about experience. There IS no Truth. As Helen Keller said, Life is a great adventure or nothing at all!

Bjorn said...

Thanks for taking the effort to do at least the two shows in Chicago, so I don't miss out on a Live show! I understand how boring it must be to do the same show over and over, but in this case, your pain is my happiness.

Stumbling on Happiness is a great book. I'm addicted to audible, because I always want to hear the author's voice, if possible. It brings so much more dimension to the work.

My fiancee saw a ghost when she was three, at least she thought she saw a ghost. Her mother kept telling her she saw a ghost, that it was the ghost of her grandfather. Until recently, she never questioned it. There must be a god, because there must be an afterlife, because without an afterlife, there couldn't be ghosts. The mind is a remarkable thing.

I wonder if there will be a day when it will be possible to upload each neuron in your brain into a computer, and jack into the consciousness of everyone else who is jacked in. At least at that point, we wouldn't have to worry about lack of caffine fogs.

Anonymous said...


It is great to see you are blogging again!

The fog will subside.

You can chew baby aspirin to help with the headache, and it will give you the little caffeine boost your body is craving right now. Also, if you cut down your carbs while you are withdrawing, your energy levels will climb significantly.

Somebody else posted that fresh grapefruit juice is a great solution,too.
I absolutely agree.
I squeeze two (red) every morning, and then blast off.

Good trick!

Hope you're feeling better, today.


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