Thursday, February 5, 2015

Identity Theft and Recovery Time

A few weeks ago, you began to receive messages from former students and friends you've not seen for a while, suggesting that your email account has been hacked, and counseling an immediate change in your password.

You took to a few social networks, Twitter and Facebook, to offer thanks, then to assure all and sundry that you had not been mugged in some remote airport and needed loans to allow you to purchase tickets home.  Also, you went on to state how you would not under any circumstances recommend wrinkle-removing creams, the ingestion of garcina cambogia, or a device that would immediately telephone a security agency to report that you'd fallen in the bathtub.

You have indeed not been in any significant airport in years, much less been mugged in one.  You've become tolerant of your own wrinkles and found those of your acquaintances to impart a certain charm.  Bath tubs have been out of your life for lo these many years, your most recent venture in a bathtub in a hotel where you were intrigued by the display of bubble bath in the guest package.

All in all, your hacked email account was small potatoes compared to the horror stories of identity theft broadcast about by security firms, warning of the consequences when you become its victim.  

In some cases, thanks to methods for duplicating documents such as driver's licenses and identity cards, you could be sending an evil twin doppelganger out into the world, a person who becomes you to apply for credit, make purchases, enter agreements, join Internet dating systems, and in numerous ways, become a troll.

These past days, in which your head seemed packed with the equivalent of steel-cut oatmeal, symptom number one of a head cold, subjected to rapid-fire bursts of sneezing, for symptom number two of a cold, and for symptom number three, forced to cope with a seemingly endless post nasal drip which, if you were not careful, would slide down your throat, thereupon to take up residence in your lungs and bronchia, triggering symptom number four, spasms of chest-wracking coughing, you became aware of yet another way in which identity is pilfered.

Illness of any sort is an identity thief; it steals from you your ordinary, greet-the-new-challenge persona resident within you, turns it into the equivalent of Dr. Jekyll's vociferous and mean spirited boarder, Mr. Hyde.  You don't need emails from friends to alert you.  There is already a growing sense of time about to be lost.

Most of the illnesses of your acquaintance had some time frame suggested to you by a doctor.  Your venture with cancer, you were told, would require six weeks of your time.  "Until?"  you asked.  "Until time to consider chemotherapy and or radiation."

Six weeks, it was.  But there you were, back in class.  Based on what the surgeon had told you and your own regard for chemotherapy and radiation, those were not an issue. Lesser time frames such as colds, and influenza, were mortgages of one or two weeks, based on your past experience.  A sprain or wrench could stay with you for a week.

You are in effect not the self you chose to be, trying to evict these unwanted boarders, these squatters, from your presence.  In another sense, your identity goes missing when you are wrenched away from easy solutions to problems emerging in your writing.  

Where to go next?  How to portray it?  And sometimes, the aches and pains from, of necessity, having to reach too far, or the rebound from the frustration of thinking you have no more resources to plumb in order to find solutions.

So far, you've been fortunate.  Some things lingered longer than you had the patience for, and you found yourself obsessed by focusing on ways to bring your old self back, reclaim your identity.

The time loss from writing is, of course, another matter well beyond illness.  Even if you have not been successful in your dealing with the writing at hand, it has given you a vast sea of intangibles from which to draw when you must go in again and ask for more insight, more understanding, more empathy, more of the identity you sought when, so many years ago, you first began the journey.

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