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.