My life as I knew it ended Thursday, March 24th, about 1pm.
At that moment, by mistake (and how it happened is irrelevant now), I gave total access to my computer to a hacker from another country. I have spent the best part of three days doing all the triage I could think of, with professionals, to protect/ re-protect my life savings, my identity, my secrets, my private life.
For now, at this moment, no money seems to have been taken, but the hacker had access to enough things that my changing all my passwords now feels a lot like installing twenty padlocks after the horse has left the barn.
This is not the uplifting blog post I wanted to be adding after a three week break. I’ve been hard at work, many hours each day, on what I lovingly call “Book No. 2”, and that’s why I’ve been gone from this blog for a while. I was going to share with you the current draft of the new book’s preface this week. That was my plan, and I will do so soon I hope. But for now, I’m trying to string together a few minutes here and there of NOT obsessing between “What else do I need to be doing/changing/protecting?” and “You stupid idiot, this is your own damned fault!”
The latter is not useful at all. The former is barely useful.
To you helpful folks out there, yes, I cancelled my credits cards, closed my bank account, and alerted my bank and savings companies immediately, by phone. Luckily both are based locally, so I walked over there Friday morning and they were all wonderful. I called a reliable computer tech support company immediately and got my computer cleaned and malware investigated (there was none).
The result? There’s a chance my meager life savings is safe. My personal privacy is destroyed, and although I miss it, I have a whole new level of empathy for the thousands of people who have been in my shoes through no fault of their own. I learned that being smart, and being careful, very careful, will not necessarily protect you from these sorts of things. But I also learned something even bigger.
I learned that the customer service people at my bank, my credit card company, and my investment company are brilliant in their people skills as well as their technical skills.
Every person who helped me could have successfully worked for a suicide hotline. Calming, but never patronizing. Kind, so kind. They were knowledgeable, patient, calm, skilled, and… inspiring. Yes, inspiring.
And I caught myself revisiting, effortlessly, that brilliant, tried-and-true Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Truth be told, I haven’t had much anxiety in a very long time. I’ve had challenges and concerns, but not the kind that are flooded with adrenaline as well. Not until three days ago, that is. I saw that the Serenity Prayer really does help you to sort out those two things:
“Is there something I can change/do right now, or
… for now, do I have to simply breathe and trust that the professionals who helped me knew what they were doing?”
I’m feeling okay during daylight hours, less well at night, when I roll over, wake up a little, peaceful and comfortable until I Remember What Happened, then I’m again flooded with Thought: panic, depression, fear. And back to the Serenity Prayer.
So the moral of the story (which is what the final paragraph is always for) is:
1- When you find yourself in the middle of a boat-load of lemons, remember there are professional lemonade chefs everywhere. We are never all in deep doodoo on the same day. We take turns.
2- Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. Some mistakes come with a huge price tag, some with a little price tag. Not every big price tag means it was a big mistake. A little mistake can be pretty devastating. It happens.
3- As with art, with life: Yelling Never Helps. (Can you tell I’m writing this blog post for me?)
4- In due time, I will find out the long-term consequences. For now, if I have done everything I can, I have to let it go, not assuming that no chips will fall, but that the chips will fall where they may, and I will deal with that when the time comes. If I’ve learned anything, it is that rehearsing disasters does not prevent them, it just wears down your immune system and makes you no fun to be around. I have witnessed this from both sides of the whining, and it’s not pretty.
So again, again, forgiveness is the lesson. I forgive myself for having made a mistake. I forgive the hacker for thinking what he was doing was a good idea. I am asking God to show me the entrance ramp to that broad highway I was cruising down the last few weeks, writing this book that, so far, has made me laugh out loud as well as reach for a tissue or two.
Each day gets a little better.
No matter what, don’t let life steal your joy, for life is exactly where you’ll pick up your next batch.