September 4, 2022

Soul-Stirring Music & the Pain of a Slow Suicide: Remembering Karen Carpenter.

I’m a big music gal who couldn’t narrow my tastes down to a favorite genre if you paid me—or simply asked.

I love all music and my collection has no rhyme or reason. From world music to classical, funk, rock, and decade mixes to blue grass, Cajun, Christian, and soul, plus easy listening, Big Band, and Gregorian chants. No matter what the genre, you are guaranteed to find it when you scroll through the countless playlists on my app, or on my classic iPod (yes, it still exists in my car). There are even remnants of my past on CDs at my parents’ house.

My music collection resembles my book collection—it is filled with diversity, eclectic in nature. You would definitely look at me and scratch your head. And that’s okay. It’s taken me 52 years to get to know myself, so good luck if you want to try. There is no box large enough for me to squeeze into, and that’s no play on words given what I allowed the pandemic years to do to my body!

Those who follow my blog know that I am either listening to instrumental music or tuned into the crickets singing their own songs during the night while I write. Usually it’s classical, a playlist that touches me in some way and allows the thoughts to strike the keyboard, transforming those thoughts into words.

Tonight, I had one of my select 70s playlists on. Those might be my favorite because they just move me in every way.

I played one song over and over, then looked at the artist and wondered who the heck they were. Obviously a one hit wonder, yet a wonder that brought forth so many memories and afforded me an opportunity to walk down memory lane so many times as I played it, again and again, enjoying my visit with the past.

When I finally moved beyond that one song, Karen Carpenter was up next. I love so many of her songs—both she and her brother—and have listened closely to the lyrics since I was old enough to comprehend the words.

I heard a new one this evening: “Love Me for What I am,” and reflected upon the lyrics. That reflection brought me back to one of my favorite songs by The Carpenters, “I Need to be in Love,” a song that at one time I’d claimed as my personal anthem. That was accompanied by John Denver’s “Seasons of the Heart,” which was a conundrum. I knew I needed to be in love, but I also had to say goodbye. What a dilemma.

Turned out I simply needed a dog—unconditional love and companionship. Kidding, not kidding.

I found it ironic that Karen Carpenter’s song, one that I played over and over, haunted me tonight, followed by my anthem a few songs later.

How sad was Karen. She wanted to find love more than anything, didn’t settle for any love that wasn’t enough, and never stopped believing that the world could be a true rainbow connection.

September begins Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Karen Carpenter battled anorexia and lost. Karen Carpenter fought to hold on to an ideal and lost. Karen Carpenter was tormented by her feelings, emotions, and experiences, which ultimately led to her death.

Eating disorders have little to do with food, but everything to do with emotions. Whether someone is anorexic, bulimic, or a compulsive binge eater, there is pain, suffering, conflict, anger, hurt, and confusion fueling it all.

The irony is most people who are struggling don’t let it show. It pained me to listen to this song, one that was new to me yet clearly gave us insight to a woman who was suffering when put it together with her other music.

I urge you to take a moment and really pay attention to those around you: family, friends, and colleagues. If you sense someone is struggling, don’t be shy. Take a chance and reach out. That person may need just one person to pull them up from the depths of hell.

Music is life, and it can tell someone’s story. That’s why we listen. We want to relate or feel or let ourselves go in some way.

Join me in remembering Karen Carpenter in honor of her spirit and as commencement to Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Some may say she “died of heart failure.” But think again—she died due to heart failure from the slow suicide of the overwhelming pain of an eating disorder.

Let her words and music stir your soul and move your heart:

“I Need to be in Love”

The hardest thing I’ve ever done is keep believing
There’s someone in this crazy world for me
The way that people come and go through temporary lives
My chance could come and I might never know
I used to say no promises, let’s keep it simple
But freedom only helps you say goodbye
It took a while for me to learn that nothing comes for free
The price I’ve paid is high enough for me
I know I need to be in love

“Love me for What I Am”

The ordinary problems
Have not been hard to face
But lately little changes
Have been slowly taking place
You’re always finding something
Is wrong in what I do
But you can’t rearrange my life
Because it pleases you
You’ve got to love me
For what I am
For simply being me
Don’t love me
For what you intend
Or hope that I will be

Karen’s last song. I scratch my head, because it sounds like she’d found the very love she sought…tissues, please.

“Now”

Now, when it rains, I don’t feel cold
Now that I have your hand to hold
The winds might blow through me, but I don’t care
There’s no harm in thunder if you are there
And now
Now when we touch my feelings fly
Now when I’m smiling, I know why
You light up my world like the morning sun
You’re so deep within me we’re almost one
And now
All the fears that I had start to fade

~

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~

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