Friday, February 27, 2009


OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve never seen Survivor or a lot of other reality TV shows. I do, however, watch The Biggest Loser. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this specific reality program, The Biggest Loser is a show where morbidly obese people are chosen usually in couples (i.e., spouses, cousins, siblings, best friends) to be taken to a ranch, where they will be worked over like crazy for a few weeks to help them lose weight. As in some other reality shows, each week one person is usually “voted off” - asked to leave the ranch to continue their journey at home. This person is taken out of the running for the grand prize and title of The Biggest Loser, and at the end of the season, there is a finale and all the contestants are brought back to display what they’ve accomplished and get weighed in one last time, where the winner will be chosen from the finalists.

When the contestants arrive at the ranch, each team is assigned a specific color to identify itself and each team is assigned to one of two trainers, but as more and more contestants leave, eventually all the remaining contestants are lumped into two teams and may or may not switch trainers. This is what happened on this week’s show. I was amused to see how the contestants handled the change. Some were extremely upset, said they were so happy with the way things were, and now everything had changed.

Watching that show, I thought, “Life is a game. The rules change all the time. How we adjust to those changes is what can make or break a successful life.” This is so true at my work. I love my job at the hospital, but one thing is certain - the rules will always keep changing. Rules about what to transcribe and what we outsource, rules about how we are paid, rules about format, rules about working holidays - even rules about the rules! It is a constant shift from one week, sometimes one day, to the next. Some of my co-workers fight this. I have just learned to “go with the flow.”

Freelance writer Lou Ann Thomas writes: “The only thing we truly can count on is that life likely will change. We can be going about our business, with most of the details of our lives planned out, and then something like a bridge failure, a mine collapse, an illness, a birth, a new job or any unexpected change happens and we feel the fragility and preciousness of life in a new way.
In these moments we understand more deeply that there really are no guarantees. The only thing life promises us is a wide range of experiences. What we do with them is up to us.”

The hard part is the realization that there are some changes we create, and some are thrust upon us. For the latter, we too often fall into the role of feeling helpless and victimized. We resent the fact that we have no choice. We frantically try to find someway out, knowing that in reality, as the old cartoon alien would say, “Resistance is futile.”

Yet that is the very change that life throws at us so often. We know the rules will change, the circumstances will shift; it is just a matter of when. My friend Sally told me last night of watching an Oprah episode where they showed people affected by the recession, people who had a few months before had good-paying jobs and houses to live in, people who had lost everything, and who are now living in tents. Some changes are extreme; some are more minor. Some are life-changing events, and some are just annoyances. But we are still caught by surprise when they happen. It is as if we had an “understanding” with life that it would go smoothly and be the same as it ever was, and just as we get comfortable with the rules, we are taken out, given a new color team T-shirt, and have to change our trainer. Bummer.

Yet, on The Biggest Loser, some contestants discovered that the very thing they had dreaded and fought against turned out to be a blessing. Their new trainer used different techniques than their old trainer did, which shook their bodies up to lose more weight. The whole situation looked different from the start than it really turned out to be. Sometimes the rules change and the outcome, though we can’t see it at first, might be an improvement.

Improvement or deterioration, change will indeed come. Those of us who are able to take change as, if not a welcome experience, at least a challenge, are life’s winners. Now that’s a Survivor!

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