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An Unexpected Cure for Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed

by Jennifer Margulis


Service dog sitting

“You’re in my way,” I snapped.


My poor puppy.


She wasn’t doing anything wrong.


Just wagging her tail and looking at me out of her big soulful brown eyes.


True, I was trying to open the refrigerator door. And, yes, she was blocking it.


But even I could hear that my tone of voice was unfairly unkind.


Sleep and I weren’t getting along. I’d woken up approximately 50,000 times the night before. Every cell in my body felt grumpy.


Still, that was no excuse for grouching at Serenity, my service dog. After all, she was innocent. I shouldn’t have been taking my exhaustion out on her.


A difficult week


In my own defense, I was having a hard week.


My false left eye hadn’t been fitting right. Just a few days before, I’d had to drive nine hours roundtrip to my ocularist to get it resized.


He’s an amazing artist but not the gentlest of clinicians. In order to fix it, he had to yank the falsie out. More than once. Then stuff it back into my empty eye socket. It hurt. And it also made me queasy.


Worse, the dry air hitting the inside of my socket grated like sandpaper. The ocularist slapped a Band-Aid-like patch over my empty eye socket to wear while he resized the prosthesis. When I tore it off, the sticky part of the patch took off a clump of my eyebrow.


My body was still adjusting to the newly sized prosthesis. My eye was mucous-y, the lower lid puffy and swollen, and all the eye discomfort had been giving me headaches.


Off balance


It was barely light outside when I groused at the puppy.


I apologized to Serenity and took her for an off-balance walk, trying to recover my equilibrium.


After that, I sat down to work. Unfortunately, spending the rest of the morning doing editing work worsened my mood. Monocular vision, for me, has led to a lot of eye strain. Looking at my computer screen for more than fifteen or twenty minutes is very hard.


So, there I was, with an excruciating headache, one painful seeing eye and one painful falsie.


My psychic pain was even worse than the physical pain, I think. I felt angry at myself, sorry for myself, and ashamed of both feelings.


Extra mustard greens


The phone rang.


It was a friend I’ll call Tillie.


Tillie told me she had some extra mustard greens, onions, and garlic. Did I want to stop by later in the day to pick them up?


Tillie lives a little way out of town. Seventy-six years old, she grew up in the Philippines in extreme poverty.


Since her husband died, she’s been struggling.


With very little income and no one to look after routine home maintenance, she was dropped from her home owner’s insurance because the inside of her house had become so dilapidated.


Tillie can’t bear to throw anything away so her yard is filled with trash: broken ceramic flower pots, a rotting filing cabinet, thousands of plastic plant containers, spoiled food she took home from the charity where she volunteers, as well as unidentifiable contraptions no longer serving whatever purpose they’d originally been designed for.


Serenity loves her yard. So many things to smell! So many splintering bones to feast on! So many squirrels to chase into the street!


We pulled onto her lawn. Tillie, who’s not even five feet tall, was heaving a big box of expired produce into the back of her neighbor’s truck.


“Miss Josephine has chickens,” she explained.


When you’re feeling miserable—for whatever reason—there’s one surefire cure


I put three boxes of produce into my trunk: one for me, one for my friend and her family, and one for a neighbor.


Then I took off my jacket and rolled up my sleeves.


“I’m helping you clean up the yard,” I said.


“It’s too much,” Tillie sighed. “Another time.”


Last time I’d tried to help in the yard, Tillie had successfully shooed me away.


This time I was more stubborn.


I didn’t ask her what she needed done. I just started doing it.


I opened bags of expired food, put the plastic in the trash, and put the food in the compost bins.


I took the stickers off mounds of rotting fruits and vegetables and put them in the bins as well.


I emptied out a bag of rancid turnips and shoveled them into the compost along with a little dirt, put rotting wood, wet paper, and half a dozen unusable cardboard boxes into the burn pile, knocked over the buckets of standing water where mosquitoes were going to start breeding, and stacked plant pots neatly underneath an outdoor table.


Tillie fired up the burn pile and added bags of accumulated junk mail onto it.


Serenity chased squirrels and ate rotten food while we worked.


I’m not sure how much time went by—two hours, maybe three.


When I was too tired to do anymore, I lugged three big bags of trash into my car to haul away plus a box of recycling to put in my bin.


“I think God sent you to me,” Tillie said quietly.


I felt so grateful to lose myself in the work, to be able-bodied enough to help Tillie, and to share the organic produce with my friend. I realized, driving towards Jessica’s house, that my headache was gone, as were any lingering feelings of self-pity.


I’d helped Tillie, it’s true. But, really, I’d helped myself.


Next time you’re feeling miserable, do something kind for someone else. It’s a surefire cure for unhappiness, self-doubt, and disheartenment.


Try it. It works every time.


Jennifer Margulis

About the author: Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is an award-winning science journalist, Fulbright grantee, and sought-after speaker.


She writes a popular Substack that has over 20,000 subscribers, Vibrant Life, and is a regular contributor to The Epoch Times. A different version of this article first appeared in print in the magazine Radiant Life.


1 Comment


Lamb Herman
Lamb Herman
Jun 04

My body was still adjusting to the newly sized prosthesis. My eye was mucous-y, the lower lid puffy and swollen, and all the eye discomfort had been giving me headaches.

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