I knew it was risky when I picked it for my word of the year.

After all, “hope” and “light” had backfired in different ways.

But I picked “heal” because that’s what I needed for 2022.

And on January 5, I tested positive for COVID-19.

I suppose I could have been angry for a lot of different reasons when I looked at the pink and the blue lines side-by-side. Fourteen years ago I would have given nearly anything to have seen two lines on a home pregnancy test, only to be repeatedly met with nothing. Now I was sitting in my bedroom confirming that after two years of running from a pandemic, it had finally caught up with me.

Yeah, I could have been angry. Instead, I felt defeated and just a little bit relieved. I couldn’t escape it anymore. It finally had me in its grasp. And now I could just pray that I would be the only member of my family to become ill.

After two years of fearing my fellow humans, two years of masking, two years of crying when loved ones weren’t taking the pandemic as seriously as me, two years of anxiously walking into my classroom and jumping at every sniffle and cough, I was now exiled to one room of my house, only leaving on occasion with a mask covering my face and unable to hug my babies and sleep next to my husband.

All things considered, the vaccines did their job in keeping me from severe illness.

Wednesday night was the worst night, as muscle and bone pain made it nearly impossible to relax and fall asleep, even though I was desperate for rest. A friend sent me Vitamin D3 and Zinc tablets, as well as some other items to help speed along my recovery, and by the time I finally did fall asleep, there was an indication that I would get out of this relatively easily.

Over Thursday and Friday, body weakness kept sending me back to my room, although I braved the stairs for short trips to do my own “dirty work,” getting drinks when I needed to or when I was ready for something simple to eat. I masked up and avoided family, staying as far away as possible. With the kids also stuck at home in their own quarantine to ensure they wouldn’t inadvertently pass anything along to classmates, our family lived an uneasy existence of waiting and isolation.

On Friday night, as I drifted off to sleep, I was hit with the sudden fear that I couldn’t smell. That one of the symptoms I feared would still hit me had suddenly impacted my body. It wasn’t so much the fear of losing my sense of smell. I’m a human being who has had a fair share of colds over the years. Losing my sense of smell is something that goes with the territory. No, it was the knowledge that this wasn’t a cold-related symptom; it was neurological. And if I lost my sense of smell, something several friends had admitted took longer than expected to come back, what other strange side-effects could I expect?

I woke up the next morning with a muted sense of smell, but it wasn’t gone, something made clearly apparent when I could smell my eggs cooking on the stove and the freshly ground coffee that I scooped into the coffeemaker.

I spent the rest of the weekend slowly getting back into my work while I continued my isolation. I may have been taking time off to recover, but teachers don’t really get to take days off even if our decrease in sick days available says so, a fact far too easily ignored by those outside of education as we continue to try to figure out what the Omicron wave means for school buildings across the country.

While I’m still wondering when I will be strong enough to run even a mile, I am feeling significantly better. I got away with some aches, occasional headaches, and a mild cough that has gotten better every day.

But the voice in the back of my head keeps asking all of the questions: Is my heart going to be ok? Will I struggle with physical exhaustion forever? What if the temporary brain fog of the first two days comes back? What if I have hidden issues that I won’t know about for years? What if my family really did have it but they were entirely asymptomatic and we need to have the same concerns about them?

They are the questions that plagued me before I got sick. They are the questions that had me running, not walking, to get my third shot as soon as I was able. They are the questions that had me signing my children up for their vaccines once their age groups were approved. They are the questions that have haunted so many of us for nearly two years.

Still, I am now able to take walks along the street next to our house. Ten thousand steps doesn’t seem like an impossibility, but maybe a little irresponsible. I became bored as I tried to effectively work in preparation for a full day of school, grading what work I could and hoping that four days in the building this week will be enough to get me caught up so I can once again try to get to know 150 brand new faces.

And our family will continue to pay attention to guidelines and listen to experts as we keep navigating these uncharted waters, because, after two years, the end is still nowhere in sight.

But at least we know we got through this mild storm, for now.

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Thoughtful and nuanced responses welcome!