I am a confessed news junkie. Watching the various networks’ slant on current events is nothing short of mind-blowing: Same news different version. All the networks are running amok with the “he said/she said” stuff that is considered breaking news during this contentious presidential race. All news and no play makes me a dull and aggravated gal. As an antidote to my news viewing, I record my favorite shows and binge-watch them when I find the time.

What I have noticed is that face of television has changed. When I go online to record my shows, more reality series pop up than not. I searched online for “reality series” and was shocked to learn that more than 300 reality shows are currently aired. Imagine 300 shows!


Why in the world are people so engrossed in watching ordinary folks engage in unscripted everyday and not-so-everyday activities? (Although the Kardashians are far from ordinary.)  A little aside: When the Kardashians visited Riverhead some years back, it caused a big stir. It was a big “huh?” for me.  I think maybe I was the only person in Riverhead who didn’t know what a “Kardashian” was.

By their high ratings, it’s obvious that folks get reality TV—although I feel it’s akin to voyeurism.  I mean, really, aren’t we living in our own realities? The leader in reality TV is the series Survivor. On September 21 of this year, Survivor started season 33. Like I said, folks love this stuff! I had to look this up, but in case you haven’t tuned in, here’s a heads-up on the premise of the show:

A group of strangers is stranded in a remote location with little except the clothes on their backs. They have to surmount many challenges, fight the elements and fight each other. They stoop pretty low in order to gain the title of “lone survivor” and a million bucks. A million bucks is a pretty good payoff.

Let us ponder this reality (no pun intended.) There are multitudes of folks out there who have walked through the fires of hell and come out the other side with their lives pretty much intact. Priceless, don’t you think?

My gentlemen friend’s grandson was almost two when he was diagnosed with a deadly cancerous tumor. He went through the rigors of treatment while his parents and their extended family’s lives came to a screeching halt. Today, he is a well-rounded 16-year-old, popular with his peers, playing sports and is a spokesperson for the community offering encouragement, education and hope for those afflicted with pediatric cancer.

The statistics substantiate that self-awareness, advanced treatment, proven research and new developments have given many serious diseases the bum’s rush.  I know folks who have outsmarted their illnesses and are living happy and productive lives.

Those of us who have been widowed fall into the deepest valley of our lives. There are no magic pills or advanced treatment, save for therapy and temporary medication.   We are forced to climb up the slippery slope of grief only to find ourselves slipping back time and time again. Finally, we reach the top, and guess what? We find that our loved one is still dead and we are still alone. Nothing, and yet everything, has changed. However, every time we climbed back up we began to develop the hard shell of resilience.  The will to survive propels us to move upward and then forward from the dark valley of death into the light of life.

I know a single mom who has made a good life for her children. She purchased a house in a nice neighborhood. She was making ends meet ends meet until six months ago when her employer informed the staff, by email no less, that the company was sold and her job will be eliminated. Panic? Anger? You betcha! This mom went from management to temporarily cleaning houses. She is still running in the race of life, maybe a little faster. She has not given up and told me recently she will not be deterred by this setback.

Our brothers and sisters in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous know a bit about surviving. When they hit the bottom rung of life, the only way is up. However, their daily struggles may include trips to the detox centers, daily meetings and some back-sliding. Recovery at times seems like an unattainable feat. Through my church, which houses AA meetings, I have had the privilege of getting to know these brave folks, some of whom I now call “friend.”

A lovely couple lost one of their teenage sons in an automobile accident some years back. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering they had to endure, nor do I wish to.  Yet, you would never know about their tragedy by their demeanor. She is a beautiful gal with a sparkling personality; he is a fun guy, and their presence is always a delight. This couple enjoys life to the fullest, despite their heartbreak.

A wife watches the husband she knew slip away slowly piece by piece from a debilitating disease. Yet, this gal retains her lovely smile gracing each conversation with her inviting and giving nature.

From every wound, there is a scar physically or emotionally, and every scar traces the story of how many of us have earned the title “Survivor.” After posting an article recently, someone commented on how I could possibly remain positive after my personal trials. My reply was a no-brainer: “It is because of what I’ve been through that has made me who I am. My intention is to retain that joie de vivre.” And I do.

When you tune into the TV series Survivor or any other reality series, I ask you to recall the times when ordinary folk such as yourself were challenged to the max. We live in a really-real world—and a million bucks aside, there are no “lone survivors.” We all have, at one time in our lives (unless you are truly charmed), come out the other side of a life-changing experience waving a brilliantly colored banner that reads: I am a Survivor!

I’m not knocking the show Survivor; obviously many folks enjoy it, but I ask, “Who are the really-real survivors?”

I’ll let you be the judge.

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Iannelli Celia 2014

Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in ‘retirement’ — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.

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Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.