Mark Ballard

Shaking off life’s clutter

Somewhat of a germaphobe, Mark Ballard likes to keep his hands clean.
Somewhat of a germaphobe, Mark Ballard likes to keep his hands clean. Special to The Telegraph

The other night I was standing at the sink washing my hands. Something I do more times a day than you can imagine. I like clean hands. I’m also somewhat of a germaphobe. I always put out a fresh towel each night before I go to bed. That way my washing ritual is ready for another day.

Some nights I forget to replace the towel. Actually, more nights than some. When that happens, I’m greeted in the morning with a wet, wadded up towel that’s usually tossed into the sink instead of beside it since it can no longer fulfill its job. So full of water itself, it can’t dry anything.

Standing at the sink, I often revert to being a small boy. From an early age, Mother instilled the importance of hand washing. “Have you washed your hands?” I heard every time I walked inside our house or sat down at the dinner table. I used to get a scolding for not vigorously shaking the water from my hands before reaching for the towel. Mother basically wanted our hands almost dry before we enlisted the help of a towel. It cut down on her laundry duty.

Since Taylor Swift introduced her hit song “Shake it Off” a few years ago, I started looking at shaking things off in a different way. Instead of shaking off water from our hands, we all need to learn how to shake off all the daily problems, trifling issues and petty words that bombard us and weigh us down. It sounds easier to do than it is but, lately, I’ve been practicing a lot.

The older I become, the more I realize how important it is to surround myself with people that bring out the best in me. People who love and support me through thick and thin. People who are positive and uplifting. People who comfort me and even make me laugh when I’m down. In other words, I try to rid myself of negativity.

It’s amazing how much happier we are when we are not carrying all the extra weight that negativity brings. Negativity just uses up space that otherwise could be filled with positivity. It sucks our energy and clutters our mind. Getting rid of negativity is another form of spring cleaning. One that is much more important.

The more I practice shaking off negativity, the easier it becomes. The results are immediately noticeable. I have removed negative friends and posts on my social media accounts by simply hitting the unfriend button. The easiest way to stop negativity from surrounding you is to remove it from your sight and replacing it with positivity. Just as washing our hands removes dirt and germs, deleting negative people removes the stress that negativity causes.

As I’ve written about many times, I learn so much from our little Chihuahua, Bandit. He shakes things off constantly. After I give him a bath, he vigorously shakes his entire body to rid himself of the water that remains on him. Many times, for no apparent reason, he shakes every inch of his little body causing his ears, and everything else for that matter, to make a loud flapping sound. Afterward, he stands tall and goes on about his business. I’m not exactly sure why he does this, but it always reminds me about the wonderful effects of shaking off hurtful and negative things. “Shake It Off” is my new motto. There’s a whole lot of shaking going on around here! Won’t you join me?

See Mark live

Join Mark for an evening of fun and food at the annual Vidalia Onion Culinary Extravaganza at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Historic Vidalia Pal Theater in downtown Vidalia. Tickets are $10 and are available at Phillips Pharmacy or by calling 912-293-2407.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to 3514 Ridge Avenue, Macon, GA 31204; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at creates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.