The Story Behind the Optimist's 2022 Laugh a Little Diary


Basically the Optimist’s 2022 Laugh a Little Diary evolved on the back of the Carer’s 2022 Diary and Journal which was created in appreciation of caregivers.

I needed another project to work on so as to make it through the endless and lonely days of Coronavirus lockdowns, restrictions and public health orders forbidding visits to loved ones and families. 

The Optimist’s 2022 Laugh a Little diary is in appreciation of everyone who demonstrated unselfishness, team spirit and strength by making huge sacrifices to protect their fellow citizen.

I was not allowed to visit my partner, Coverley, for four months during the latest lockdown.  There have been other shorter lockdowns and very restrictive visitation rules for most of 2020 and 2021.  It has been four months of stomach churning anxiety and heart wrenching sadness.  Four months of not knowing how or what he was feeling.  Did he think I had abandoned him?  Will he remember me?  Will I receive a phone call that he has had a fall or another resident has punched him in the face?  Who is going to hug him when he is feeling scared or confused?

For the last two years I have fervently written in my diary daily to record my feelings and memories of my visits with Coverley.  My diary is my confidante that enables me to vent my emotions.  My addiction for diarizing morphed into creating diaries when my days became bereft of visitations to the love of my life.

Everyone was living under public health orders which were imposed by health authorities and governments and were enforced by police.  Citizens started to dob each other in.  Trust was being eroded.  If we didn’t obey these orders, we were threatened with large fines and the risk of catching Covid-19 and passing it on to our nearest and dearest.

We have always believed that Australia was the lucky country and Melbourne had the reputation as being the most liveable city in the world.  The rest of the world had suffered and emerged through the worst of the Coronavirus and were now getting on with life.  I think Australia thought they had managed to escape or beat the wrath of Covid-19 but we were wrong.  It came to our shores suddenly, fast and with a vengeance. 

Our governments’ response to it put the spotlight on Australia.  The rest of the world were shocked at our harsh restrictions, lockdowns, law enforcement and the uncharacteristic defiant behaviours of frustrated and angry citizens.  We were a laughing stock to some and pitied by others.  Melbourne went from being the most liveable city in the world to the city with the longest lockdown in the world.  

Children were banned from going to school.  Businesses had to shut their doors.  Some businesses never recovered due to emotional stress and financial ruin.  Most employees could not work unless they were an essential worker in an essential business, like supermarkets.  Some workers could work from home surrounded by energetic and bored kids who had to be home schooled. 

Nurses and other medical staff could go to work, but were overworked under their increasing workload.  Families were separated and could not visit with each other.  This included families that only lived 5klms away.  States closed their borders and disconnected from each other in an effort to keep Covid-19 out of their jurisdictions.  Verbal warfare sprang up between State premiers.

Our economy was under duress, but minds and spirits were being broken.  What happened to Australia the lucky country?  If nothing else, the Coronavirus brought out the best and worst in us all.  Most Australians had no option but to keep a stiff upper lip and soldier on through the isolation and restrictions imposed on them resulting in so much emotional, physical and financial destruction.

But the greatest tragedy of all was the loss of compassion.  Hospital beds became the front, centre and back of the pandemic.  Compassion was sacrificed to keep beds available for people who caught and struggled with the virus.  These people consisted mostly of the vulnerable, aged and disabled.

It is an honourable and humane thing to keep our vulnerable and dependent fellow human beings safe from the virus and possible death.  But in doing this, the flip side was that they and everyone else suffered in other ways. 

They ceased to receive visits from their loved ones when, out of fear and duty, the doors of hospitals and residential aged care facilities were abruptly slammed shut to spouses, children, carers and friends.  I struggle with the concept that it was done with any regard to compassion by the bureaucrats as it was a harsh blanket rule that lacked flexibility.  

Elderly, frightened parents and the sick died alone.  Newborn babies were separated from parents.  Disgustingly, a lot of people were denied mercy to comfort their loved ones during the height of their suffering or in their passing from this earth.  Any possibility of receiving a guise of comfort or love, or to have a hand to hold, was up to the nursing staff.  As wonderful as our nurses are, they are not the same as having a loved one hold the hand of someone who is suffering in pain or dying.  

Nurses are already under duress with the emotions and demands of their own family circumstances, so this must have been an extremely difficult and sensitive time for them.  

The heartbreak, anguish, despair and anger caused by the solutions to tackle Coronavirus made it difficult for most of us to breathe and function normally but, sadly, it was all too much for others who felt that suicide was their only pathway out of this oppression and suppression.

I can’t imagine how confused and scared those with dementia must have felt.  They do not have the capacity to understand what was going on in their already stranger than strange world.  However, they did know that their days were emptier than usual.  Did they feel they had been abandoned?  Did they get upset and agitated?  Were they given extra medications to sedate and calm them? 

Admittedly, it was the sacrifices made by the majority of ordinary every day citizens that kept most of us safe from the virus.  But at what cost?  Our emotional, mental, physical and economic health took a hit that will take a very long time to recover, restore and rebuild from. 

We all paid dearly, but I think those who paid the highest price were our bureaucrats who traded compassion for a one size fits all rule book!  They ruled with an iron-clad fist and a mean heart.  They were inflexible in applying their rules.  They have been perceived as either courageous, perverse or unemotional.  If this tough stance is what it takes to be a leader, I think that most of us aren’t up to the job!  Nor do we want the job if the best solution to conquer an adversity requires us to sell our soul!  

Maybe, just maybe, it was courage that some of our leaders demonstrated.  Without doubt though, some were running scared and put their reputation at the forefront with scant regard or respect for their citizens.  These outspoken leaders had become puppeteers and their 'subjects' were puppets to be swung to and fro.  

I guess they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t!  Begrudgingly, I suppose we need to recognise that the last two years could have been much worse.  But that is of little solace to those who have lost so much, particularly for those who have lost loved ones, their livelihoods or their life savings to try and keep their business afloat.

I can’t help but ponder whether the burden of restrictions and lockdowns outweighed the benefits of controlling the coronavirus.  Was our response to the pandemic too harsh? Could it have been done differently?  Would compulsory vaccinations have made a difference?  

In my opinion it is essential that these questions are answered by having a Royal Commission into the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.

Without doubt, earlier and faster vaccination role outs would have prevented our lengthy and multiple lockdowns and restrictions.  Mandating vaccination for the Covid-19 pandemic would have been less painful and more honest than coercing and threatening people with loss of jobs, freedoms and life if they didn’t get the vaccine.  

A global pandemic is an exceptionally deadly circumstance.  Where is the duty of care of leaders to protect the global population from disease, death and economic ruin without sacrificing freedoms?  

We have been so fortunate to have had access to reliable vaccines, but wasted time quibbling about 'free choice'.  Where were our free choices to leave our homes, visit loved ones, go to work or to show physical affection?  I appreciate that this is a controversial conversation for some even though the rewards of vaccination are obvious to the majority of us. 

We are in a privileged position of having vaccines and treatments which will turn our lives around and maybe, just maybe, run this coronavirus out of town.  Soon we will be able to cautiously venture out of the long, dark Covid tunnel putting lockdowns and restrictions behind us for good.  Fingers crossed!

Hopefully we can all look forward to a healthier and freer year ahead.  Use the Optimist’s 2022 Laugh a Little Diary to add some hope, order, humour and light heartedness to your life each and every day.