For the last month, I have been keeping up with the latest buzzed-about podcast, ‘Missing Richard Simmons.’ In this six episode series, host Dan Taberski goes on a journey to try and uncover the whereabouts of the famed fitness trainer and motivational speaker with a larger than life personality. In 2014, Simmons abruptly closed his Beverly Hills fitness studio and disappeared from the public eye. Throughout the series, Taberski interviews close friends and family members of Richard, attempts to visit him and his loved ones, and wonders how Simmons could unceremoniously leave the many friends and fans who followed him. Provided with short clips of some of his work in the past, and commentary from those close to Richard, it becomes clear that Taberski is chasing one who doesn’t want (or need) the chase, and Simmons is just fine.
One of my biggest takeaways from this series is that I totally understand where Richard Simmons is coming from. Without spoiling the series for any of you who are interested and plan to listen, we learn that Richard is a highly empathetic individual who seems to serve others in overdrive. As a person with similar sensitivities and tendencies, I’ve learned my modes are simply “off” and “on.” When I’m on, I’m everywhere: giving, serving, loving, extending myself beyond myself. “No” is not part of my vocabulary, because my main drive is to help everyone I can however I can. Like Richard, I’m a helper, a giver, a feeler. Strangers meet me and tell me life stories. People consult me for all things. My heart gets invested in people. However brief the interaction, I want to leave people better than I found them. I say yes and yes and yes and yes, and have sometimes struggled with how to balance all of my yes-es.
In recent years though, I’ve learned how this kind of over-extension can lead to burnout, and that sends me into “off” mode. When I get here, I go relatively missing. The people that know how to find me can and will, and my commitments become much firmer and contrary to what is typically expected of me. I put myself first (for once), and place all priorities on recharging and taking better care of myself. I’m taking longer showers, spending more time reading, delving into a series on Netflix, paying better attention to my health, and offering myself some much needed tlc. When here, I’m trying to find balance in a different way. The overwhelm is strong here, and I’m attempting to give myself the grace I find it much easier to extend to others before myself.
Listening to the series, I found myself livid at times (as some of my tweets would suggest). One of the questions Taberski repeats through the series muses upon why Simmons did not inform people of his need to disappear before he just did. I found myself defensive of Richard, and sometimes yelled “RICHARD DON’T OWE Y’ALL SH*T!” in the way that I will talk back to podcasts I particularly get into. How dare people feel owed something from someone who gave of himself so freely in the first place? What else did they want from him? I was outraged, and this is where I started to wonder: was I mad for him, or mad for myself?
What I have learned about us over-extended, highly sensitive people is that the drop off is never announced. I think that this happens mostly because we just try to keep puttering on for the benefit of others, until one day, the off switch has come on and taken over. Perhaps autopilot is the best way to describe it. Something inside of us that knows we need this break rises up, takes over, and gets us through the days until we’re better enough to be fully back “on.” Balance between the two modes are hard, and I am still trying to figure out the best ways to navigate between the two. This is, of course, part of a larger journey. In the meantime, I have my people (much like Richard) that I can check in with, provide updates, and be completely true to what I am in the moment, and not the more polished-up version.
Maybe in his time away, Richard Simmons has found the secret. Regardless, he has turned his switch to “off” mode on his own terms, and I respect him for it. When I began listening to this podcast, the only draw was my passing curiosity in the title character and the possible uncovering of the story behind his disappearance. I never imagined that I would draw such parallels between myself and Simmons, and learn that the two of us are a bit similar. I have always admired his commitment to sequins and glitter, though. Now, I believe we’re kindred spirits, trying to live our lives the best way that we can. Maybe I needed to hear this series to allow myself the space to do the same.