Choosing to laugh along the way can, umm, lighten the load

Inspired by a return to school, columnist Brenda Schoepp decides 
there are a few other things she wants to change in her life

As I write this, it is week four of my master of arts in global leadership program at a university near Victoria, British Columbia.

After 40 years of being out of school, I can honestly say that I have met my challenge. So tired by day’s end, I collapse on my foam bed.

Not one to be deterred by change, I embraced the West Coast life and decided that three hours of exercise daily would rejuvenate my foggy brain and perhaps peel off those 40 extra pounds that followed me. Into the program I leapt, walking 10 kilometres a day. No worries on that one, the Galloping Goose trail is just outside the door. When I had conquered walking, I decided to mountain climb (puffer in hand) and added floor exercises and some light weights. Easy.

The campus I attend is beautiful, sitting right on the ocean and I love studying there. Being introduced to the recreation centre ignited my desire to ‘sculpt’ this flabby form. And being one who bores easily, I joined the Bollywood dance/exercise class (a combination of East Indian dancing and intense exercise) in addition to sculpting class. As the room is mirrored it is pretty painful to watch and my instructor was encouraging me to “wake up my brain.” (What? I’m working on the difference between left and right!)

Anyway, through this exhilarating process I tore something in my, uh, derrière, and was grounded in excruciating pain. My first ‘sports injury.’

Last week, I tried a new set of weights and found myself stranded in the middle of the room without being able to get out. As the pain in my arms increased and my heart threatened to leave the room (calling me overzealous as it left), I abandoned the gratification of weightlifting to buying shirts with long sleeves to hide the extra set of wings under my arms. (I swear I could take off in a good wind.)

Not one to give up, I took to surfing Twitter feeds during my recovery to see what others were up to in their fitness program and found the perfect solution in the post of a cattle feeder friend who suggested simply taking a pencil shrink. Problem solved. I feel four per cent lighter already.

It does not, however, fix my caboose. But I remain downgraded to floor exercises and walking in the brilliant green of the rainforest. Not too hard to take, but my appetite is still Prairie sized, as though I was saddling up and checking fence or working in a large yard.

I decided if I lived on the West Coast, I should try paying a little more attention to the grocery aisle and curbing those large meals. My first purchase was Stephano’s Secret Stash Pumpkin Hemp Glory. The package read “Love, Peace & Granola” and claimed the product is vegan. Put that together with local yogurt and some eggs (available by the honour system at the end of a driveway) and I was set. When loneliness sets in I simply eat the whole package. (Back to the floor exercises.)

I then decided that perhaps exercise clothing would guilt me to stay away from the secret stash. There were a few unsuccessful attempts to get in those spandex/‘stretch to Jerusalem’ pants. After they screamed for mercy I contemplated giving up. But then I thought, ‘There has to be a secret to this — other women can get these things on. Maybe if I lay on the floor?’

So with my feet sticking out the change room door, I tried again. In the end, I bought the pants. (I was informed they were sold because I ruined the seams. I also traumatized the young salesperson after getting stuck under the door.)

As for the other adjustments of going back to school, most everything is online. No worries, I have the IT department on speed dial and I can almost hear them rolling on the floor laughing over some of my dilemmas. (Ha. Laugh all you want — the councillor is in the next building and she understands!)

I also chose to join a 300-voice choir because I cannot sing or read music and figured in a group that size, they won’t notice me. My practices to date have caused my landlady to come running, ready to dial 911, as she fears I have been seriously wounded. A choir member herself, she threatens eviction if I keep “disturbing” her and the other residents. It’s not going well.

As for my education, I am fascinated by my classmates and totally engaged in the work. Global leadership requires adaptability and a high level of resilience, and I have those along with courage in spades. People are lovely wherever one goes and this is true here as I am greeted warmly and with care.

Whatever the challenge, it is important to laugh along the way and this I have found myself doing often — at the joy of living and at my ever-improving self.

About the author

AF Columnist

Brenda Schoepp

Brenda Schoepp works as an international mentor and motivational speaker. She can be contacted through her website at All rights reserved.



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