The last day of the old year is an auspicious time to start a blog.  I have called my blog, “Life Unexpected,” and hope to share with you the vagaries of life and reflections of a personal nature, as well as thoughts and musings about the goings on of life in Israel.  I am a psychologist specializing in trauma and resilience, and as such will inevitably focus on these topics as they play out here in Israel.

How did I come up with the title “Life Unexpected”?  For a start, this is the title of my newly published book about my journey through breast cancer.  This title represents for me one of the big takeaways from that experience, namely, that much as we would like to think that we are in control and in the driver’s seat, that is simply an illusion.  Secondly, life in Israel is always unexpected, sometimes for the good, and sometimes for what seems to be, the bad.  And lastly, the title “Life Unexpected” allows me the latitude to take this blog into directions as yet unknown.  I, for one, am looking forward to the ride.

Speaking of rides, today I woke up bright and early to begin my training for the Alyn Bike Ride – Wheels of Love, to which I signed up last week.  I set out for my first training ride leaving the house when it was still dark.  As I drove the winding roads down to Emek Haela from my home in Gush Etzion, I marveled at how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful country.  The mountains, the valley, the vineyards, the sun rising over my shoulder to the last day of this year, gave me pause, and a moment to give thanks for being here in this complicated land.

I parked my car, put on my helmet and gloves, took the front wheel out of my trunk and went around to the passenger door to pull out my bike.  Lo and behold, there was no bike!  Life unexpected, indeed!  I quickly realized that my son, who had borrowed the car last night, had probably taken the bike out and put it in the storeroom, to make room for his friends.  He had neglected to return it to the car, and I had simply not noticed as I climbed into my car in the pre-dawn dusk.

As I drove back up the mountain feeling the anger and disappointment coursing through my veins, I picked up a hitchhiker, a women about my age (59), dressed in ultra-orthodox garb.  She entered my car and immediately struck up a conversation.  Within minutes, she was giving me advice about how to control my feelings, and how to look at this as an opportunity to learn about how to deal with anger.  This is not untypical of Israelis who often like to share their advice freely, whether solicited or as in this case, not.  I held my tongue as I answered her point for point in my head.  By the time she got out of my car, I had calmed down significantly but was still not convinced that her advice was sound.  After all, I am a psychologist.  I should know a little bit about childrearing, strong emotions, etc.  I drove into my parking spot, as I finally reached my son on the phone, and told him to bring my bike down immediately so that I could still squeeze in a ride. As he put the bike in my car, I uncharacteristically held my tongue and quietly said that we would talk later.

I quickly pulled out trying to make up for the lost time, and took a quick look at the clock in my car.  It read 7:02 AM.  I was puzzled as by my calculations it should have been at least 7:30.  It took a moment before I realized that my reliable car clock had stopped the minute the hitchhiker had entered my car.  I considered what supernatural forces were at play here.  What did this mean?  Was this a sign from the great beyond to listen to the wise words of this messenger?  Who knows? Who will ever know?  Meanwhile, the clock started moving.  As of the time of this writing, the clock is still 20 minutes slow.  I suppose that soon enough I will advance it to the correct time, but meanwhile I am considering the advice I got this morning and the lessons learned from this (mis)adventure.

In Israel, the start of a new year is a time for reflection, for looking back, examining our behavior, what we have done, and what we have omitted.  It is a wonderful opportunity for living the examined life on both a personal and national scale.  My aborted early morning ride contributed to that “heshbon nefesh” (literally, the calculations of the soul), and surely put me on the track for Rosh Hashana.

With best wishes for a wonderful new year, in which the mysteries of life continue to intrigue us, and may we be blessed with ongoing learning  in this life, unexpected.