The other day, I was driving home after training a client at the gym when I heard a great old song that took me back like songs often do. You know, the kind of song that makes you instantly go back in time to a memory that takes you into another world; a slow dance with your first love, hanging out with your best friends, or simply being young and carefree? You didn’t know it then, but years later you’d hear that song and instantly be transported, as if in a time machine, to that exact same feeling in your very soul.
“When I was young, I’d listen to the radio waitin’ for my favorite song…every sha la la la every wo wo wo still shines…”
Man, could she sing! The Carpenters were so cool back then. I remember how much I loved Karen Carpenter as a teenager, and though this dates me terribly, I wanted to be just like her. Any song she and her brother released went gold and touched the hearts of every person that heard them. I mean, really, who didn’t love the Carpenters? And, I still do today.
From “Rainy Days and Mondays,” which I still break into on some rainy Mondays, to “We’ve Only Just Begun,” which I sang at dozens of weddings back in the day, Karen Carpenter became a part of our lives forever more.
How amazing it would be to be able to touch and influence so many lives just by opening your mouth and letting your God-given talent pour out. Still, she was unable to see how special she was. Somehow, this incredibly talented woman became entangled in a sickness that eventually cut her remarkable life short. The world was truly robbed of an awesome and beautiful person, and because of what?
It’s hard to comprehend the heartbreaking battle that must have raged on inside her mind. My heart breaks to think of what she must have gone through. Right now, how many people are waging that same secret war inside themselves, trying desperately to fit into society’s idea of how they should look?
I believe with all of my heart that if Karen Carpenter were alive today, she’d talk about how she lost track of what was truly important. She’d encourage us to be strong, vibrant and happy in our own skin, and to stop wasting our lives worrying about what anybody thinks about how we look.
I never had the privilege of knowing Karen Carpenter personally, but somehow I know in my heart that the purpose of Karen’s life transcends her music. She left behind a message that speaks to everyone who wishes their body was better, skinnier, prettier, or more like the models the media inundates us with.
Karen’s gift to the world goes far beyond her musical talents. Maybe her life’s purpose was to compel us to look deep inside for the one true thing that can make us happy. It would be easy to say her death was a waste, but I see it quite differently. She stands for every person out there who hates themselves for not having the “perfect body”, or who feels inadequate for whatever reason.
At first glance, my books may seem to be just another health and fitness gimmick, or something similarly trite and superficial. But truly, The Now What? Fitness Series is about how to avoid becoming a victim of society’s expectations, and how to stop comparing ourselves to the “beautiful people” the media crams down our throats. There is a simple and healthy way to become and stay fit and happy, so that we can live quality-filled lives into our golden years.
Over the past three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to work with people with a variety of fitness goals and challenges. I believe that inside those who are unhappy with their appearance lies a Karen Carpenter. One, who like Karen, feels desperate, unworthy, and inadequate, no matter what their size or weight may be.
I may not be able to work personally with everyone fighting this type of battle, but I can say to you what I think Karen would say if she were alive today. I believe she’d say — Life is too short to compare yourself to anyone. Do what you can to live your life in healthy and positive ways, and let the insecurities go. Find the tools to help yourself make constructive changes, and do the best with what God gave you. Most importantly, you should love and be true to yourself. We are all perfect in God’s eyes.
And to Karen I would say:
I love you and your music, and I thank you for the total legacy you left behind. It was not in vain.