Joyce T'ang
Class of 1980


Community Physician


Two-minute Plank – Thoughts from My Quarantine Days

I thought I would be bored brainless. I am a true gadabout, a non-stop slightly hypomanic creature who is otherwise also known as pincushion bottom. Kicking myself for missing the return deadline by one day from New Zealand in mid-March, I resigned myself to 14 days of mandatory quarantine. I live alone and dreaded the idea of being literally stuck at home.

My profession does not allow me to do very much work from home, so I could only use about one third of my time as administration work and have meetings via Zoom; the rest was my own time. I pondered whether I should either just eat and sleep through the fortnight, or do all the household things I had procrastinated about for years in one go. I am not a terribly domesticated person, and had pushed away such mundane tasks as tidying up the sock drawer for.…later.

Faced with 14 straight days of lockdown in my apartment, I conceded that "later" had arrived. Starting with my closet on day one, with a feeling of trepidation, I took out all my T-shirts and tops and started sorting. I found clothes that I had totally forgotten about, had not worked for years, and clothes that I had no idea why I bought in the first place. I began to form a "throw out" pile. The pile grew larger and larger over the hours as I went through cupboard by cupboard. I even dragged out my ladder and climbed up to the top shelves and emptied them out, finding more and more hidden horrors as I went along. Although I couldn't really relate to Marie Kondo's "spark joy", the process of "throwing out" became easier as my sorting mode gained momentum. It was cathartic! After an exhausting full day of sorting, I had eight large garbage bags filled with clothes to go into the recycle bin! Marie would have been proud of me. I decided that I would sort and tidy my whole apartment category by category. I found two-year expired sauces in the back of my fridge, and cables of unknown origin that didn't fit any appliance. The book sorting was rather difficult as I did have attachment to my books. Jewellery sorting confirmed my suspicion that I should never buy jewellery as I had completely forgotten I had them. I found numerous items that had belonged to my parents, and they brought back many memories mixed with feelings of warmth and sadness. By the end of it all, my apartment had grown larger, and I was basking in a virtuous, glowing sensation which came from being physically "unburdened", and the revelation that I could truly live better with less.

What happened next?
Oh, the phone rang, it was the Health Department.
Health Department: "Are you in your home?"
Me: "Yes, I thought you knew. Aren't you tracking me with the bracelet?"
Health Department: "Thank you, goodbye."

Seven more days to go! It was time for home improvements. I re-potted my plants, steam-cleaned the curtains, polished anything that could be polished, planted chives, and discovered I did have a useable balcony where I could sun my toes and read Michelle Obama's Becoming at the same time.

But my restlessness needed more outlet. All the above was not enough. I craved exercise. Then I discovered online yoga which I followed for two hours daily. After clearing a space, I built a running track and an obstacle course through the apartment so that I could run and jump for an hour every day, together with a workout with weights. If I couldn't go out for swimming or hiking, I could at least do more pushups and core work. All yoga teachers love plank. It's the one move that appears in just about every online class – straight elbow plank, knee to elbow plank, dolphin plank, killer plank, suicide plank and "hold it for as long as you can plank". It's supposed to give you a tight butt and strong core. Doing it made me discover some muscles I never knew I had. How did the online teacher know that I was cheating by bending my knees?

In case you're thinking I have ADHD or worse, I reassure you that I can actually wind down very well and switch to quiet mode if I wanted, tucking into a book with music in the background, which I did every evening after dinner. I much prefer it to watching TV. Throughout my life, reading has given me pleasure and comfort when I'm on my own. These two weeks really reinforced the notion for me that I would never feel lonely in the company of a good book.

It's been more than a month since the end of my quarantine. Looking back, I could honestly say that I did not have any chance to be bored. I have a new-found appreciation of home, and an even greater appreciation of our city. Of all the places in the rest of the world being ravaged by the dangerous virus, this was the safest and best place to be. I feel very lucky to live in this wonderful city with a good healthcare system. My home is now clean and organized, my plants are thriving with the extra attention. I feel a sense of renewal, not only from throwing out excess material things, but also stronger in the knowledge that I was able to spend 14 days happy in my own company. Another unexpected bonus acquired from the quarantine was the flattest stomach ever in my life, and the ability to hold two minutes or more in plank!