Hope Edeman’s memoir, “The Possibility of Everything,” is about finding faith in things you can’t see or understand in order to rid her three-year-old daughter of a disruptive imaginary friend. Here’s my conversation with her about faith, parenting, marriage, and possibilities.
Jennifer Haupt: What is your definition of faith, and why is it important piece of being a good parent?
Hope Edelman: My definition of faith is very simple. It’s the ability to believe in the unseen and in the intuition that there’s more going on here than we can prove at a sensory level. The book is the story of how I learned to trust my intuition. When Maya started acting out and blaming her imaginary friend “Dodo,” my pediatrician and my friends all told me it was a developmental problem she’d grow out of, or that maybe I needed to take her to a psychiatrist. But my intuition told me there was something else going on--that I needed to follow a different path.
JH: Taking your daughter to see a shaman in Belize is definitely a different path.
HE: We were already going there on a long overdue family vacation, and my husband Uzi suggested finding a shaman. Our marriage was really in trouble at the time, and in part I felt I had to take Maya because Uzi was so strongly in favor of it. I didn’t want to make things worse between us. That, too, turned out to be intuition. It wasn’t just Maya who needed to heal, but our whole family. Uzi and I were both under a lot of stress and going to Belize was the first chance we’d had to bond as a family in a long time.
JH: Was there a time when you felt you’d lost your faith?
HE: My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 15. It had already spread by the time it was discovered and she died sixteen months later. I felt that if this kind of suffering could exist¾both physically for my mother and emotionally for my father and the rest of our family¾how could there be a benevolent God or higher power looking out for us? My father pretty much collapsed emotionally when my mother died. He was able to go to work and provide food and shelter and clothing, but beyond that I was pretty much left to raise myself. I definitely lost my faith in a higher power then, or in anything more than myself.
JH: I don’t want to give away what happens in the book, but you did wind up being part of Maya’s healing process. Did that have anything to do with rediscovering your faith?
HE: The shaman gave me flowers and herbs to bathe Maya in, and told me to pray into the water. Sitting in the bathroom, it took me a while to think of something. When I did it was first the Lord’s Prayer and then a Hebrew prayer from my childhood. It was the first time that I had prayed in many years, and I felt as if I was calling my mother into the room. As my tears fell into Maya’s bath water, along with the medicinal herbs, it felt very healing for me too.
JH: Since the Belize trip, have you been more open to spirituality the way your husband experiences it?
HE: I’m definitely still the more skeptical partner in our marriage, but I’m much more open now than I was nine years ago. I’ve gone back to Belize to study Mayan healing and become part of the community of people here in the States who’ve taken the same course. Having that knowledge of plants and our relationship to the natural world makes me more grounded as a person because I do have a sense that we’re only able to see part of what’s going on around us.
JH: Has faith in any way strengthened your marriage since that trip to Belize?
HE: Uzi and I came back with a renewed commitment to each other and to the family. That may also be why Maya didn’t need to act out anymore with her imaginary friend. I think our experience could be explained either way: that the Mayan healer rid her of an undesirable spirit or--what a Western psychologist might say--that a child’s behavior improves when the parents resolve their stress. And maybe the two are even connected, just different cultural ways of explaining the same thing.