BELIZE, June 6, 2011 — In “The Possibility of Everything” (Ballantine: ISBN-978-0-345-50650-4) author, and mother, Hope Edelman confronts that life holds many mysteries and that there is a possibility for everything.
At three years of age Maya, Hope and Uzi’s daughter, reveals her imaginary friend. At first Dodo is considered by doctors and child experts as a benign, normal, not to be unexpected imaginary friend. Children create them. It is normal.
Then Dodo becomes violent and Maya, a beautiful, loving child, becomes someone new. Someone that, suddenly and without warning, is dark, violent and impulsive.
Something that was not visible, that could not be heard or felt, but that was very real was infiltrating this family.
“What do you believe in?” Uzi asked me one night.
“I’m a card-carrying member of the Church of the Senses,” I said. “I have to see to believe.”
“No, I’m serious,” he said. “What do you believe in? Really believe in?”
“I believe in the possibility of everything,” I told my husband. “But I can’t place my trust in anything without visible proof.”
In words that are open and honest, Edelman shares her fears and disappointments. She exposes the wounds of her mother’s early death and her fears of that which she cannot easily categorize.
She is at her worst a skeptic, but at her best she is a mother that is willing to follow her instincts.
And her instinct to do “anything” to help her child overcomes her fears, opening her to the possibility of everything. Edelman’s ability to recognize that her child’s behavior is not textbook gives her a super-human emotional strength. The strength of a mother that is suddenly able to lift a car off of her trapped child.
To verbalize that she was scared and frustrated, that she had to do something, but that she was not going to find out what that “something” was in a traditional way, is her emotional adrenalin.
For Edelman, a first time mother at 33, being able to open herself to finding a different cure for Maya came at the expense of everything she believed.
“My own sanity, my own intuition told me something was wrong, but that it wasn’t “medical” as we would traditionally define it,” Ms. Edelman says from her home in Topanga Canyon. “I did not know what it could be. I knew it was not a garden variety imaginary friend, but I did not have a language or world view on what else it could be, unless it was mental illness, and I could not easily accept that.”
Uzi, Maya’s father and Edelman’s husband takes an almost passive role in the book, stepping into the frame of action as needed for support, before stepping back to allow the rebirth of mother and child and family.
As his belief in the mystical is expressed, they define their path while planning their trip to Central America.
“It’s going to be okay,” Uzi whispers against my cheek.
“I promise.” He tightens his grip around my waist. “I promise. We’ll find a shaman in Belize.”
While Uzi is almost a passive bystander to Hope and Maya’s tale, his role in this tale is central to its success as he encourages the unfolding events. He is parent, husband and observer, sometimes nudging Hope and Maya down their path. Other times simply providing the support, the safety net, Hope needs to step into the “everything”.
Uzi is almost an avatar for the reader watching, guiding and hoping for Hope and Maya, however his role in guiding Hope, his quiet, though enthusiastic acceptance of the events that take place, gives the reader permission to suspend their disbelief.
In doing so we can accept the eventual outcome of this California family’s journey into the mystery of the Belize tropical forest.
Deciding to spend their Christmas holiday in Belize, is as much for a destination neither world traveler has visited, but also to allow Uzi the chance to dive Belize’s Caribbean Barrier Reef, second only to Australia’s Great Barrier.
However, once the Belize decision is made, the idea to seek assistance with Maya’s demon, for what else can we call it, and to give a family, divided by the demands of Uzi’s work and Hope’s motherhood/work schedule, a chance to reunite.
However once decisions are made the idea of finding a shaman propels the turn of events leading to the deep jungles of Belize.
Throughout the unexplained conflict in their child’s life, experiencing the story in hindsight, you can see the subtle guidance of Uzi and the circumstance that brings Edelman to accept a very alternative cure for her daughter.
And, ultimately, herself.
The year before their journey, Edelman consulted an alternative healer to cure her Lyme disease; their babysitter, Carmen, is from Nicaragua, and she was the first to encourage Hope to accept an alternative cure for Maya, performing a ritual that did, for a short period of time exorcise Dodo from their lives.
“She told me to run an egg up and down Maya’s arms and legs, and then she took some basil from the refrigerator and told me to squeeze it in Maya’s bathwater and pour it over the top of her head,” Edelman writes.
And Dodo did disappear, only to return a short time later, stronger than before.
In Belize the family journeys to San Antonio Village where they encounter Ovencio Canto. Their quest to cure Maya has taken them to the cabin of a Mayan bush doctor on Christmas Eve (2000).
This initial visit becomes difficult as Maya/Dodo resists, screaming and thrashing, until her mother is unable to continue, just one more difficult stop on a long path toward something that Hope is unable to verbalize.
But the journey to Belize has been difficult, so maybe this is not so surprising. It is almost as if all that can go wrong does on what is really a simple journey. The country is simply not difficult to reach. The people are warm and giving. Moving about down deeply rutted dirt roads, while foreign to most Americans, is easy to the Belizean people. It is almost as if they simply believe they will reach the destination they set out to reach.
However one quickly learns that an intelligence born of being one of the oldest cultures in existence, coupled with an understanding and acceptance of their environment, without the first world need to tame and alter it, allows them this faith.
But the delays of Edelman’s journey are only the start of the family’s travels. What could go wrong did go wrong. Planes delayed every step of the way. Connections missed. Hours spent, with a child that has suddenly developed a chronic cough and fever, in airports.
Travels that began tortuously ends with a final torturous journey, with a feverish Maya, over rutted roads into the tropical jungles of Belize. For this suburban American mother, the leap of faith to drive into the jungle on the day of their arrival then to drive back into the jungle just days before their departure, meeting with Ovencio just a few hours after arriving in the country, and then seeing Rosita the day they left San Ignacio for Placencia, shows a final acceptance that this path, no matter how bumpy, is somehow the right path.
It is here they meet with Dr. Rosita Arvigo, an American that learned the ways of a healer through her apprenticeship with acclaimed Mayan healer Don Elijio Panti.
The conclusion of the journey and Maya’s release from Dodo is almost anticlimactic, though satisfying, to the reader that has read, breathlessly as the family journeys down a road whose final destination is unknown, until they get there.
“I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but I’m still trying to understand how so much anticipation led to so little: a fifteen minute conversation, a bag of leaves, and a prayer?”
The healing of Maya is the healing of Hope and the rebuilding of her family unit.
The Mayan people are revered for their mysticism and connection to the land, the stars and the sea. We know that they were brilliant mathematicians and astronomers, healers and seers. They are a people able to calmly accept what is and for Edelman to have the courage to seek a cure for their daughter from a healer deep in the Belizean desert is, on one hand, extraordinary.
And on the other hand, through Edelman’s honest prose, and with Uzi as our almost spiritual guide, we are able to accept their journey, that we don’t have all the answers between the leaves of our first world book and that sometimes we just have to accept that there is the possibility of everything.
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