What you see when the veil is lifted

April 4, 2020

Proverbial canary. Sometimes used as an early warning mechanism in coal mines.

Our house is in week 5 of quarantine, while California is officially in week 3.

Maybe it’s the neurosis I inherited from my mother or maybe a message from my guides, but I knew we needed to mostly isolate and sanitize way early. Gently, I tried to point it out to groups I am in, but it was long before most people could wrap their heads around it. I recognized the subtext to their responses (or non-response): you’re over-reacting.

Not so much.

Ying and Yang

quarantine-epiphaniesThe veil of civilization has been lifted and we are all learning a lot about one another during this awful period, 

I have been awed by acts of generosity by individuals and businesses. Moved to tears by two photos of a cousin’s daughter who is an ER doctor: one during her shift and one after. She looked beat to hell. I keep contrasting that with my memory of her as a beautiful, smiling bride at Keuka Lake last summer.  It’s going to be a long time until she smiles like that again. I pray for her every day; her life is in danger every time she goes to work.

And there are other quarantine epiphanies, too.

A well-regarded, famous writer I have admired has well and truly shocked me with her narcissism during this time. She took a group of writers to a developing country on an annual workshop,  even as it was obvious that something big was afoot with travel. I intended to take a workshop with her next year. But  I viewed her decision to go forward with this one as irresponsible. I knew instantly I could never travel with someone who exercised such bad judgment. But, turns out, that was only the opening paragraph.

Predictably, most of the women in her group had to find their way home upon State Dept. orders. But she chose to stay and so did two of her students.  

Each day her posts appeared in my Facebook feed: relaxing, swimming, dining, writing waterside. I looked hard for expressions of empathy or even sympathy for what her fellow citizens were going through back home.

Nope. None.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

quarantine-ephiphaniesAs the weeks passed I realized she really felt no empathy at all. It was mind-boggling. Even so isolated in rural central America, there was sufficient internet service to post long pieces on what she and her students were doing–relaxing, enjoying– complete with photos. Surely she had been seeing the news online.


Her focus was herself. The posts were shockingly tone deaf to what was going on back home.

And then, a woman responded to her, not with criticism, but with a snapshot of her own reality dealing with this pandemic and commented that she would be celebrating when it was over. Inexplicably, the writer saw this as criticism and posted an EXTREMELY long defense of herself that began “I have no need to defend myself.”  It was lengthy and defensive.

Dozens of sycophants reinforced her in comments, practically kissing her feet (or another part of her anatomy) in agreement with this ridiculous, self-centered post. So I responded.

I was the only commenter I saw to suggest that perhaps being isolated made her not recognize the stark reality of the situation here. Perhaps she couldn’t see that the woman’s post had nothing to do with the writer–she was simply briefly describing her own situation. I then addressed the original poster with a few words of solidarity and empathy.  A handful of women reacted with approving emoticons and others kept on with their obsequious comments of approval for the writer’s defense. No one else weighed in with what seemed so obvious to me.

The next day, the writer wrote yet another defense of herself. Oh yeah. A true narcissist.

The interactions were illuminating: I don’t often recognize narcissism in people I have never met, but this was so clear, it was stunning.

The emperor has no clothes

quarantine-epiphaniesA Facebook group I belong to is a place for current pandemic information and experiences. It’s mostly an island of Covid info sanity in the social media arena.  Each evening the group leader posts the day’s takeaways.

There’s no overt politics but of course, the frustration many of us feel with the void in political leadership leaks through. Why wouldn’t it? Trust is a big part of dealing with this and it’s missing at the top. The head guy is clearly not sane. Ok, batshit crazy. A rose by any other name. Also a narcissist. 

Last night’s take away post from the leader included this:

  • The CDC released guidelines today that Americans should wear a mask in public. The idea is it will protect others if YOU were a mask. The more we all do this – the better.
  • The President isn’t going to wear a mask.

In response, someone said: “Really? Many political leaders are not wearing masks yet you point out President T…”?


It isn’t relevant to report a fact? Oh wait. Trump supporters do not believe in facts. Just “alternative facts.” So the guy who announced it’s recommended we wear masks and then says “I’m not going to do that” –reporting that is a political statement?

It isn’t so much politics at play, I’ve come to see. It’s atavistic–some primitive us/them.  Also a lack of critical thinking. If you’ve got any working brain cells at all, you can see that this man is unbalanced and his statements are ridiculous. If you do not see this? I got nothin’ for you.

The Washington Post pointed out that our country was “beset by dysfunction and denial as the coronavirus raged on: From the White House to the CDC, political and institutional failures cascaded through the system and opportunities to mitigate the pandemic were lost.”

Whether you believe this or not, it doesn’t matter. It is fact. The idea that facts are something you can believe in or not is beyond belief. And yet, here we sit.

My own takeaways:

When the veil of “business as usual” is lifted, we learn a lot about the people around us.

Leadership means making hard decisions and leaders know when it’s time to make one and do not hesitate. If you have to wait to be told to isolate, it’s not leadership. If you are a political leader who hasn’t locked down your state, it’s not leadership. I can never un-see some of what I’ve seen.

I’m certain the women at the writing workshop will write about that experience. I will not read their work and I certainly will not buy it. Same with the new book the famous writer has coming out, although I have enjoyed her writing. All I’d see is her narcissistic self and her ass-kissing followers.

Abundant courage has shown itself in every corner of this country and the world, most especially among health care workers. God bless them. And also among those who keep us supplied. May they also be safe.

I’m grateful for the steady leadership of our governor, Gavin Newsom. He stepped up quickly and decisively. I wish California would secede.

If you think Trump supporters are going to change their minds based on his unbelievably terrible and outright silly behavior during this, think again. They have no problem setting aside logic and good sense. None at all. His reelection is a real probability IMO. Oh. And. If you think this guy is a good president, I have nothing to say to you. 

So here we sit. It’s April. We’ve been told to shelter in place until “at least” May 3 but I believe that will be extended. They can’t feed us too much reality at once. Some of us don’t even believe the reality we see with our own eyes.

Stay safe and healthy. Sending love out to the Universe, the planet and our country…there’s not much else I can do.

6 comments on “What you see when the veil is lifted
  1. pia savage says:

    I haven’t been following the author you mentioned but as soon as you mentioned her I knew who it was. I’m in week 5 of self-isolating too, though our governor–well this is the South. I’m self-isolating alone and when you’re alone–it’s not good. Please don’t tell me the things I can do. I know them all

  2. Alana says:

    There’s not much I can say, either. I have family in New York City and its suburbs, including a first cousin who had a double mastectomy in December. And there are the posts forwarded from a co workers daughter and son in law; both are medical personnel working in different hospitals in the Bronx. One works in a NICU (neonatal ICU unit); the nurses organized a GoFundMe to buy PPE because they are rewearing and rewearing equipment. And if that famous author came in, sick, into their ER these people would risk their lives to treat her. I truly hope, Carol, that something good will come of this. Maybe it’s a delusion. But we certainly are having the masks that we wear hiding our true selves ripped away.

  3. Paula Kiger says:

    Wise observations here, Carol.

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