Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Glancing through my Yahoo email Inbox last week, I was stunned to see some familiar but long-out-of-touch names. Then I noticed that these messages were all regarding the same subject: my Yahoo email account had been hacked and a "How are you?" message with an attachment was sent to everyone to whom I had ever sent an email from that account.

The bad news was that I had been hacked. Yahoo was taking care of it and asked me to change my password. I sent replies back to those friends and former co-workers and even to a man in Hawaii whose home Bob and I plan to rent for a week next year, apologizing for the inconvenience and cautioning them not to open the attachment in the bogus email.

But there was a positive side to an otherwise frustrating experience: among these varied replies to the spam email sent under my name, there were messages from friends and long-ago acquaintances that gave me pause and made me sad that there were dear people whom I have not contacted in a very long time.

There was the message from a former boss, telling me that she misses hearing from me, and another former boss from a job I held through most of the Nineties also saying he would love to hear from me more often -- and cautioning me that the attachment in the spam email was to a porn site.

There was a message from my dear friend Sister Ramona, telling me that she was having trouble opening the attachment -- and I was so relieved -- and hastened to warn her to stop trying and just delete everything. And I remembered how I had meant to send her my travel dates over the summer two months ago so we could arrange to get together sometime soon.

There was a terse email from Ruth, my only surviving college roommate, cutting to the chase as only she can and remarking that it took being hacked for me to send her an email and, sort of, keep in touch.

There was a message from Barbara, a friend from acting days some forty years ago, who is experiencing some significant health problems. Her delight over receiving the "How are you?" spam email and her subsequent explanation in detail as to how she really was made me both glad she felt comfortable enough to tell me and ashamed that I hadn't asked that question myself in recent months.

And there was a message from a former co-worker named Chelsea. I paused for a moment when I saw her name -- delighted to hear from her and puzzled. Chelsea and I had worked on the same floor of a high rise office building at UCLA Medical Center, but in different departments. Our paths crossed occasionally and we were always friendly. I liked her immensely. But my department's policies discouraged socializing. Despite working in close proximity, we never spent much time together.

Chelsea had also received my bogus email and inquiry "How are you?" and wrote back to tell me how surprised and delighted she was to hear from me. She shared some happy news: she's now a grandmother.

And the warmth of her response filled me with happy surprise that she had enjoyed hearing from me, that I was remembered at all.

And I felt hope that a new friendship could bloom from an old, casual work relationship, that new closeness could re-energize a friendship of many decades, that it was possible, with caring and with more frequent contact, to soothe the pain of neglected relationships.

It made me think, more than ever, how valuable and dear our relationships are and how easy it is, with our busy lives, to become too casual with them, too willing to let them slip away through long silences and frank neglect.

And so I've learned a lot from being hacked. This experience has:

Taught me to be vigilant about opening emails and attachments too hastily.

Taught me to choose my passwords with care.

And this experience has taught me to be more careful in the nurturing of relationships.

It has taught me to reach out to all the people I've thought dear...and ask about their lives. They have so many stories to tell and so much joy and vulnerability to share.

It has taught me to treasure all the friendships -- close and casual, long-time and new -- in my life and not let these slip away for lack of care.

And it has taught me something else: that the day I opened my email and found, to my consternation, that I had been hacked was, in fact, a very lucky day.


  1. I love how this turned from a very aggravating situation into one that has turned so very delightful!

    There are terrific lessons here, and I love the way you share them with u here~

  2. I'm so glad to hear that being hacked was a blessing instead of a disaster!

  3. I have yet to figure out what benefit the hackers receive from spamming our mailboxes. Glad it turned out well for you.

  4. I'm glad something good came of the situation! I hope you enjoy the renewed contact with your friends.

  5. Thank you for this. It's my first encounter with optimism in the face of a cyber-nuisance. You are remarkable and I have learned something.

  6. Oh I wonder what satisfaction people have to annoy other people like this? It's hard to catch them .
    They must not have a life. lol

  7. As we move on, move away, live new lives, we abandon those with whom we shared life in the past. Sometimes that’s sad but often the link was perhaps not solid enough in the first place.

    You must have had some contact in recent years, otherwise how could these left-behind-ones have left their addresses in your email folders? Perhaps what I said about solid links applies?

    Don’t feel bad, just pick up with those whom you value.

  8. I wonder what else you have missed. Yes, it is a humbling feeling to have been hacked. My sixtyfive blog was hacked for a week a few years ago, and it was most upsetting. I instituted verification protocols for comments since then, but I still have to clear my cache now and then because hackers are insistent and pernicious.

    p.s. my husband has three different email accounts, one for personal business, one for family, and the last one for social media. I should do the same.

  9. This is such a problem during the time in which we live. I have been hacked lately too, although not with the same results you did with folks trying to contact me. I guess that was bonus for you when you were hacked. It is frustrating to go through this. I like the idea of having a different email address for social media.

  10. Good things can come out of situations like that at times... You got joy from your 'hacking'... Glad it turned out good for you...

    It reminded me that i need to take time to contact some old friends that I haven't heard from in a long time. Thanks!!!

  11. I liked the wisdom with which you drew such a worthwhile lesson in relationships from a very annoying incident, Kathy. I'm not as good as I should be in keeping in touch with those who don't read my blog.

    Incidentally I have one email address for personal mail and one for all internet use and so far I've been lucky. Fingers crossed....