In the summer of 2002, I went viral.

A medical professional at the Boulder Medical Center acted with alacrity and outfitted me with a mask, instructing me to leave via the fire escape to avoid endangering anyone I might pass in the building.

Having come down with adult chicken pox, I was under orders to stay home for two weeks. And, if I coughed twice, the nurse-practitioner told me, I should be hospitalized.

When she said this, I was quickly evolving into a state of affairs in which brain cells and nerve cells were uniting in one forceful message. “We are now calling your attention to omnipresent itching,” they were shouting, “and this will soon drive everything else out of your mind.” With that much noise in the system, a couple of rounds of coughing would barely register.

Cough twice and race off to the hospital?

A sensible medical professional had apparently lost her bearings and spiraled into over-reaction.

And then, just a few days after I had recovered, I read the obituary for Hawaii Congresswoman Patsy Mink. A vigorous and healthy 74-year-old, she died from the viral pneumonia that, not uncommonly, comes into the picture with adult chicken pox.

The moral of the story? Encountering a highly contagious and potentially very dangerous virus, I was invited to change my customs for distinguishing alarmism from appropriate caution.

On that count and a number of others, with the bright light of hindsight, the time I spent in the company of the varicella-zoster virus now resembles a “pre-enactment” of global circumstances in March of 2020.

Sticking with that recognition of relevance, consider the steep descent of my expectations for the results of medical tests. Back in 2002, given my obvious state of affliction, this test seemed unnecessary and perfunctory.

But it wasn’t.

When the nurse-practitioner got the results, she called with surprising news. The blood test had not confirmed my initial diagnosis.

This was particularly unsettling for my husband, Jeff Limerick. Since he had made it through chicken pox in childhood, he had gracefully and nobly settled into the role of caregiver. And now, with his comfortable immunity apparently meaningless, he had reasons aplenty to anticipate his susceptibility to a mysterious disease.

But then, a few days later, the nurse-practitioner called with much better news: with this virus, tell-tale antibodies were not quick to register in blood tests. When I finally was cleared to show up for a second blood test, the antibodies reported for duty, thereby setting Jeff Limerick free of panic.

And now on to a third lesson I have carried with me for nearly two decades.

For more than a week before a single symptom entered the picture, nothing even hinted at the prospect that I was putting anyone at risk. With no fever, no lesions, no sense of impending malaise, and no forebodings, I had given speeches to several audiences. Only two or three days before my symptoms emerged, I gave a speech at Lakewood’s Federal Center, observing the centennial of the Bureau of Reclamation. My audience was made up of retired employees of the Bureau, nearly all of them elderly. To this moment, I can only hope that everyone in that room had emerged from childhood with resistance to chicken pox coded into their immune systems.

Shifting to a more cheerful, but equally relevant lesson, I turn to an outcome that caught me by surprise: In 2002, I fully complied with the mandate for 14 full days of what now call “social distancing.” Even the most sociable of human beings, I discovered, can find satisfaction and even enjoyment in solitude.

And so, whenever today’s public health experts finally declare that we can emerge from our phase of confinement and reclusiveness, it is my bet that so-called extroverts will be reacquainted with the pleasures of solitude, while so-called introverts will be primed to recharge their spirits with the electric force of good company.

In the meantime, there are opportunities aplenty to provide lasting memories of the best qualities of human nature. Back in 2002, knowing of my devotion to a restaurant in town that served a wondrous dessert, my teammates at the Center of the American West called to say that they had just left a complete coffee-toffee pie on my doorstep. While I have only the faintest memory of what that long spell of itching felt like, I remember that pie with gratitude and joy! Whatever else we do on each other’s behalf in these times, I hope that we conjure up equivalents aplenty to this parable of the pie.

And now we arrive at the most relevant lesson I carried away from those days: even when we assess the present as intensely and thoughtfully as possible, we do not know the future.

In 2002, I was stuck in the role of the frail, afflicted spouse, while Jeff Limerick was cast as the sturdy, caregiving partner.

Less than three years later, Jeff had died from a stroke. Emotionally, I was in ruins, but despair was also driving me into a new life of physical fitness.

We do not know the future, but we do know we must stay braced for surprise.