Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Amazing author, mother, wife and human, Hope Edelman, has a new book coming out, THE POSSIBILITY OF EVERYTHING. Can enough be made of that title alone? It's the story of a week she and her husband spent with their then three-year-old daughter, Maya in Belize, where they sought help in separating their daughter from her imaginary friend gone bad.

If you did not have a chance to watch the trailer yesterday, you may want to do that now by clicking here.

1) Tell us about what was going on with your little girl when she was three, that made you consider doing something that you would never thought you'd consider. You said her imaginary friend had gotten out of hand, can you tell us more about that?

My daughter developed an imaginary friend rather suddenly right around her third birthday. Everyone told me it was developmentally appropriate—I’d even had one myself, at the same age—but something about her attachment to him didn’t feel quite right to me from the start. She would act out and blame him, and would talk at great length about how and where he and others like him lived (“on the big cold island with no one to protect them”).

I reacted the same way most mothers would, I suppose: first I went looking for information in my childcare books, then I spoke with the preschool teacher, and then I consulted with our pediatrician. When her behavior became more unusual, talking to him and about him much of the time, I consulted with a therapist friend who specialized in children. She offered a logical, psychological explanation about how kids split their egos at this age, but again, it didn’t feel like the answer. In the midst of all this, our babysitter, who was from Nicaragua, assessed the situation and concluded that my daughter had a spirit attached to her that needed to be removed. It sounded wacky to me, but I trusted her, and was willing to give it a try. Carmen performed a very simple ritual, and it seemed to help. That was the first time I thought, Huh. Maybe there’s some other way of looking at this situation that might be useful. Then, right before we left for Belize my daughter became sick with a virus that wouldn’t go away. When she started telling us the friend didn’t want her to get well, that’s when things moved from being just creepy to being frightening for me.

Still, I think it’s important to look at both my daughter’s behavior and my reaction to it in the larger context. At the time, I was a terribly homesick New Yorker transplanted to Los Angeles; my husband was working backbreaking hours at an internet start-up and I was left to raise our daughter mostly alone; and my once-thriving career was virtually at a standstill. Plus, the world around me seemed to have gone beserk. A million people were fleeing from Belgrade during an attempt to overthrow Milosevic, a U.S. navy carrier was attacked by terrorists off the coast of Yemen, and then the disputed Bush-Gore November election took place. I badly needed to experience some magic at that time, and I can’t say that didn’t influence the way I was experiencing and interpreting the events around me.

2) Tell us more about Uzi's research, how did he settle on Belize and this particular "treatment?"

We originally chose Belize as a family vacation destination because my husband is a diver, and Belize has the second-largest coral reef in the world after Australia’s. As our December departure date approached, it started becoming clear to us that we were really going to be making the trip for our daughter. When I’d started researching the country back in October—that’s one of my roles in our family; I’m a total research nut—I found a fairly recent memoir, Sastun, written by an American woman who had apprenticed with a Maya shaman in Belize. We started reading it as we were traveling down to Belize, and it became our introduction to the concept of Maya spiritual healing, which is actually a very gentle and simple process involving incense, prayers, flowers, and baths. We booked a clinical appointment with the author of Sastun for our daughter, but because we kept missing flights trying to get down to Belize we also missed our scheduled appointment. Unlike me, my husband was inclined toward those ideas from the very start. I was the skeptic in the family at the beginning of the story, and he was absolutely the more openminded one.

3) Does your daughter remember this chapter from her life? What are her thoughts about it all now? How old is she now, and how's she doing?

You know, it’s interesting that you ask what she remembers. It’s by far the most common question I'm asked. I’d originally thought she didn’t remember much of the trip, but just the other day she and I were talking in the car and it turns out she remembers more than I gave her credit for. Most of her memories are from later in the trip, after she’d recovered from her physical illness, and much of it comes in images, as you’d expect from a three-year-old’s experience. She remembers playing with the little boy in the rainforest, and losing her doll at the beach. In a larger sense she does remember having had an imaginary friend, though I don’t think she recalls it as quite the same kind of problem we did. She’s now eleven, and she’s grown up to become an incredibly imaginative, creative child with a great interest in both plants and in the country of Belize. So I like to think that what the healers did for her down there worked its way into her development, in some ways.

5) How did that one week permanently change you? What is the most tangible way you are different now, than you were before you boarded that plane to Belize?

Ooh. This is a good question. I guess I’d have to say that I boarded the plane in Los Angeles as an avowed skeptic dependent on scientific evidence as my marker for what’s “real”, and returned home ten days later with a new willingness to accept there are things at work in this world that we can’t see, explain, or even understand. (I couldn’t come up with a better word in that last sentence than “things,” to give you an idea of how profoundly language fails us when we try to talk about these ideas.) Did I come back as a wholesale believer in alternative phenomena? No way. I still raise my eyebrows at a lot of what I see and hear these days. But I’m much more comfortable living with ambiguity now. I believe there’s a lot at work that I can’t see or prove, and I’m okay with that now. It’s actually a relief to accept that, I find.

6) What is the scariest part of telling this story, and what gave you
the courage to tell it anyway?

That would definitely be the risk of going out into the world with such a wacky-but-true story and not knowing what effect it might have on my reputation as a serious writer. And also exposing my husband’s and daughter’s actions for public scrutiny, since they entrusted me to tell our story honestly and graciously. Way, way back when I first started writing the book, I began it as a novel for these reasons. But about six months or a year into the process I decided to write it as memoir. By that point, I’d become a collection dish for other people’s whispered stories of otherwise inexplicable experiences, and I started realizing how important it is for all of us to share these stories. And if I, as a writer with the ability to get my story published, couldn’t find the courage to tell mine as it had really happened, then who would?

Thank you so much, Hope!

To pre-order your copy of THE POSSIBILITY OF EVERYTHING, which releases next week, September 15th, click here!

(BTW, if you noticed that Hope's daughter's name is MAYA, and she received MAYA healing, you can read more about that, too, on an upcoming post on nameberry.com.


Michelle O'Neil said...

Awesome interview Carrie. I simply can't wait to read this book.

As someone who has had many positive experiences with alternative healing, I so appreciate Hope Edelman's honesty in telling her story.

Deb Shucka said...

Wow, Carrie. This knocked my socks off. I love how the personality of the writers you interview comes through so well. I can hardly wait to read this book. And I can hardly wait to read your next interview.

Wanda said...

I'm really looking forward to the book. This is a great interview. This "stuff" is right up my alley.

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Would you believe that Knowledge for People (and I) might be going to Belize next summer? No accidents. I can't wait to read this book. Great interview, Carrie.

Go Mama said...

I love these interviews you're doing Carrie. So cool.

Robin said...

Carrie, you hang out with some of the most interesting people. Can I be you when I grow up?

Drama Mama said...

Carrie, you are the coolest. I love this.

I want the book RIGHT NOW.

She said...

Wow! Double wow!