The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster. Richard Simmons is my friend, and it’s difficult to read articles about your friend that suggest he might be being held hostage and under the influence of magic spells, even if you think, like I do, that those theories are a load of horseshit. A lot of complicated feelings and memories were stirred by Richard’s subsequent interview on the “Today” show. There has been a lot to process, and I’m not sure I’m done processing yet.
I’ve known Richard for six years. I would see him almost weekly when I took his classes in Beverly Hills, and we would regularly email. He helped me lose weight – 160 pounds – and got me started on a health kick like none other I’ve ever had during my lifetime of obesity. As a result, I’ve kept that weight off for over five years, and documenting my successes and struggles along the way has been the foundation of this blog since I started it in September 2010.
This history with Richard is well known among my family, friends, and readers, and I’m not afraid to speak up and share my thoughts. I was quite possibly the first to publish anything regarding Richard’s public disappearance, long before it was national news, and I found a way to do it that was truthful and respectful, because Richard means a lot to me, so much so that I couldn’t keep quiet.
As a result, when Richard pops up in the press, people reach out. They send emails, texts, messages, and links to the articles. They ask me what I think about the often negative and salacious tabloid press he’s gotten during these past two years. They ask me if there’s any truth to certain claims or theories. And I do my best to answer. I’m quite good at separating actual information from rumor, speculation, and crappy journalism, and I work hard to stay reasonable, no matter how outrageous the headlines get.
Most importantly, though, people ask me how I’m doing. How I’m feeling. If I’m okay. So many people, whether they know Richard personally or not, are worried about him, and they reach out to let me know they’re thinking of me, too, because they know he’s my friend, and this has been a trying time.
These expressions of support and friendship means so much to me. They really do. Because the fact of the matter is that Richard has hurt a great many people. I’m one of hundreds, possibly thousands of folks that Richard maintained close, intimate friendships with. He gave people a safe place to voice their dreams, their fears, their shame, their guilt. They turned to him with their deepest secrets, and he, in turn, provided love, understanding, and compassion.
When Richard retreated out of the public eye, he took all that with him. He stopped returning calls and emails abruptly, and without warning or explanation. Those of us in Los Angeles could lean on each other, but there are countless people across the country, isolated by distance, fear, or loneliness who had nowhere to turn. Then he allowed those friends and fans to worry about his well-being for two years – two years – before making any sort of public statement, and that probably only came because some very frightening allegations surfaced in the press. How long would Richard have waited had there been no New York Daily News article?
I’ve read and heard a great range of reactions to this situation during the past two years, and they’ve only been intensified by the maelstrom of media attention the past few days. Some people feel relief. Others feel betrayed. Abandoned. I’ve read and heard Richard being called selfish, insensitive, a hypocrite, and much, much, worse.
I understand where they’re coming from. Those feelings are valid. But I choose to approach it differently. I am not angry at Richard Simmons.
For me, choosing not to be angry at Richard doesn’t mean I’m ignoring or somehow unaware of his actions. Yes, he handled this situation horribly; so did his representatives. No, he isn’t perfect; and he never has been. I stewed in anger and frustration by Richard’s actions for a long time, and guess where it got me? NOWHERE. No closer to answers, no closer to truth.
So I choose to think positively. I don’t need that bitterness and resentment festering within. I don’t fully know what’s going on with Richard, but there’s no value in speculation. Yes, the interviews he gave yesterday leave many unanswered questions, but I may never get the answers that I think are satisfactory.
And I have my life to live, with so many other things I’d rather focus my energy towards:
- Sending positive vibes to Richard, because he deserves it (and probably needs it), despite his flaws and lapses in judgment.
- Continuing to take care of myself, because even though Richard was an invaluable help, I ultimately chose to help myself, and I will let nobody, Richard included, stop me from, ahem, keeping it up.
- Caring for others, and sharing my love with my family and friends, including so many people that entered my life through Richard and his classes at Slimmons.
I absolutely have questions for Richard, and there are elements of this that really sting. BUT I CHOOSE TO FORGIVE RICHARD BECAUSE THAT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO FOR A FRIEND. I choose to forgive Richard because that’s one way I can let go of the venomous feelings that this situation can sometimes stir up inside me. I forgive Richard for Richard’s sake, but also for my own.
I want nothing but health and happiness for Richard. I’ve said that since the very beginning and I will repeat it again and again. Sure, I would very much like to see Richard again, but if that never happens, than so be it. Supporting him, whether he knows it or not, is the single best thing I can do in this situation, and I’m not going to stop.
So, Richard, if you happen to be reading (and I emailed you the link), know this: I LOVE YOU. I FORGIVE YOU. And there’s nothing more I really need to say.