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by Dave Markwell

Through the various trips and travels of my forty-two years, I have learned many things. Some of these things have come through very deliberate efforts, but probably the majority of the “knowledge” I have gained and carry with me today has largely been serendipitous or just plain accident. Gratefully, I seem to stumble into people and experiences that educate me in ways that I could not buy and would not trade. My eyes are always open to these people.

For example, at my Rotary club lunch this week, we were treated to some Mt. Rainier High School choir kids singing some songs. It was great. The fact that I enjoyed it speaks to it actually being pretty great, because I generally do not like “glee” ish stuff much at all. Exaggerated and dramatic singing tends to make me wince and curls my innards a little bit. I leave the room when “those” shows are on TV. Nonetheless, I truly enjoyed watching these young adults do their thing. I did not fiddle with my food or wish I was someplace else during their performance. I paid attention and was happy doing so. When they finished, I applauded enthusiastically and loudly. A valuable lesson was in action here.

A couple of years ago, at another Rotary lunch, I sat next to my buddy, BJ, idly chatting. I don’t remember the exact context of our conversation, but it involved our weekly program speaker and he intimated some important words shared with him many years earlier. These words were at the heart of my lesson. He said that he always claps excitedly for any performance or speaker he hears. He got this advice some time ago and it changed his perspective. Understanding that every person or group of people standing up in front of an audience is vulnerable and is sharing something of themselves makes every performance worth applauding. The simple act of standing there is worthy of appreciation. Whether one agrees with or enjoys what is being said or sung doesn’t matter. It takes cojones to say it or sing it and this should be rewarded with a hearty clap. I took this insight to heart and as I was enthusiastically applauding the nervous teens sharing their songs, I looked over at BJ and saw him, too, clapping like a madman. I smiled a thankful smile. This was a great lesson to learn.

Another unintended lesson that has resonated throughout my life came from my Mom. As a kid, I was a little high-strung and prone to some anxiety about fairly innocuous circumstances. One morning, before school, I was stressing out about something no doubt unworthy of my over-reaction. At this point, my Mom looked at me with the deep concern that only a mother holds and said, “Just relax”. As elementary as this idea seems, it had avoided me until this moment in my life. Surprisingly my Mom’s subtle, yet brilliantly powerful words worked. I just relaxed. I changed my mind and even today I remember this lesson whenever I’m faced with a situation where relaxing is helpful, which is basically all the time. I shared this lesson recently:

A couple of week’s ago, a client at my CrossFit gym worried her way through the workout, distracted and tense. Following her efforts, I gently inquired what the hell her problem was. She was stressed out about some work stuff and it was affecting her ability to focus and truly function at her normally pretty high level. It is worth noting that she is a high-achieving young doctor with a tremendous mind and spirit. She is not a whiny complainer with a perpetually half-empty glass. She told me her dilemma. It was a deal, but not a big one. I told her my “mom” story and suggested that she “just relax” and take care of the issue, no biggie. She felt better in that instance when she gave herself permission to relax. It was a moment of clarity. Her reaction was visceral. She did not know that she could actually make herself relax. This is a tremendously powerful tool and we all have it, always. We always have this power to change our mind and how we think about things. Knowing this makes the whole of life easier and more fun. And if this insight can help even one of the best and brightest, it can help anyone.

So, during this wonderful holiday season of miracles embrace all of the head-shaking and neck-hair rising experiences that it has to offer. Keep your eyes peeled for new ideas and perspectives. Share your own with others needing them. These ARE the miracles. This year, RELAX during Christmas dinner when the screaming kids knock over the gravy boat and the dog barfs up a turkey neck….and always…CLAP like crazy every chance you get!! Lessons learned….

e given every single day. It can be a kind word, a smile, a wave, a bad joke. It can be a gesture that says something or says nothing. Sometimes saying nothing, says something. It can be a flower or a book or a meal. In fact, a meal, I know from experience, is a good gift, especially if it is a deluxe and delicious, super-bitchin’ omelet served in bed.

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his new exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]

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