Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Rainy Days and Mondays," - Lessons from Karen Carpenter

Last Monday marked the 30th anniversary of Karen Carpenter's death.  Most of the people I associate with every day have never heard of Karen Carpenter because she lived, and died, long before they were even born.  They might recognize a song or two if they hear it playing on an oldies station, or in their parent's car.  

But for me (and many others over the age of 40) Karen Carpenter was a friend.  I never met her, but she was with me throughout my adolescent and young adult years.  Singing along with the Carpenters was almost a religious experience for me.  It was inspirational.  It was therapeutic.  It gave me an outlet to express the chaotic emotions within my young heart.  Listening to the Carpenters was worth the ridicule I endured from my friends who preferred hard rock, disco and punk music.   The Carpenters produced "soft rock," and Karen's incredible voice often soothed my soul.

She died the same year I graduated from college.  Along with her other fans, I was stunned.   But it was the cause of her death that was the most shocking.  At the age of 32, Karen Carpenter died of cardiac arrest brought on by the effects of anorexia nervosa.  She died of an eating disorder that had received very little public attention prior to her death.  Karen Carpenter leaves at least two profound legacies behind:  her music, and the ways in which her death have helped millions of young people who now benefit from the resources invested in the diagnosis and prevention of eating disorders.  Ever since Karen Carpenter's death in 1983, doctors, scientists and therapists (among many others) have intensified their efforts to uncover the causes and potential ways to prevent this deadly disorder.

Karen Carpenter was a huge success -- but a troubled soul.  She had everything -- yet was still unhappy.  She was extremely talented and ambitious -- and yet so insecure.  She was sweet and outgoing -- but inside she was fighting a silent war.

She was not unlike many of us.  And that is one of the many reasons I am still drawn to her and her story.   I still feel like she is my friend.  I want to learn from her.  I want to see the signs that others missed.  I'm sure they're all around me.  People who appear to have everything, and yet deep within a war is raging.  I know this is true of many of our students.  They carry such huge burdens, such deep insecurities.  But it's also true of those of us whose job it is to "have it all together."

I know that it is ONLY by God's grace and mercy that the internal battles can finally cease.  It it only when our Savior speaks to the waves, "Be still," that the storm subsides and we can experience true peace.  I don't know if Karen ever experienced that kind of peace. 

I've been reading through the lyrics of many of the songs that Karen sang.  She wasn't a songwriter, so technically these are not her words.  But when I hear her sing them, they become her words to me.  Here's several lines from a few of her songs.  The last song ("Sometimes") is my absolute favorite.  When I see these lyrics I don't read them -- I listen as Karen sings them.  And I'm carried away by her voice...

Such a feelin's comin' over me
There is wonder in most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky
Got the sun in my eyes
And I won't be surprised if it's a dream
Everything I want the world to be
Is now coming true especially for me
And the reason is clear
It's because you are here
You're the nearest thing to heaven that I've seen
I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world


Talkin' to myself and feelin' old
Sometimes I'd like to quit, nothin' ever seems to fit
Hangin' around, nothin' to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

What I've got they used to call the blues
Nothin' is really wrong, feelin' like I don't belong
Walkin' around, some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

When I was young
I'd listen to the radio
Waitin' for my favorite songs
When they played I'd sing along
It made me smile.
Those were such happy times
And not so long ago
How I wondered where they'd gone
But they're back again
Just like a long lost friend
All the songs I loved so well.

not often enough
We reflect upon the good things
And those thoughts always center around
those we love
And I think about those people
who mean so much to me
And for so many years have made me
so very happy
And I count the times I have forgotten to say
'thank you'
And just how much
I love them
"Sometimes" performed by the Carpenters (a very old video!)
I love this last song, "Sometimes.It is sweet and simple, and it gently reminds us that PEOPLE matter the most in our lives.  And we need to tell them that.  We need to love them enough to take the time and find the ways to get below the surface -- we might find a very troubled soul in need of God's grace and mercy.


  1. Lori, A Kind of Hush was my first album ever purchased with my own money. I love Karen Carpenters voice and I could not believe that someone so beautiful was starving herself. As you noted the psychology behind the disease was not well known at that time, but I was so sad when I heard the news. Funny I thought she had it all and I could not understand how she could be unhappy. The empathy to those around us is often the way God uses us to show his love, keep your eyes open. I may work at an insurance company, but I have my own mission field right here. Marcy Fry

    1. Marcy,
      As you've said, we show the love of God in the way we love others -- and you most definitely have a mission field right where you are. Thankful to be on this journey with you! May God bless you and fill you with His love always.

  2. Karen/Carpenters also helped me get through my adolescence when I was very lonely. Love her and always will. Great post.

    1. I can certainly relate to you. She had a way of making me feel a little less lonely, too. Blessings to you.