The Choice: Become an Overcomer

The Choice
by N.J. Lindquist

Sometimes we feel small.

Sometimes we feel small.

I’ve often wondered why two people can experience similar circumstances and emerge totally different.

No one ever goes through exactly the same experience as another person. No one knows, for sure, how another person feels or thinks. Two people with very similar stories and vastly different outcomes. One person becomes an overcomer and an inspiration. Another person may continue to live focused on the past or tune out through suicide, drugs, or another method.

A past blog post video shares about a mother’s inability to handle life after divorce, which eventually led to her suicide. As a teenager, her daughter realized she could follow in her mother’s footsteps or find a new and better life. She chose the life, but many people would have chosen the former. Why?

Recently, I blogged about baseball pitcher R. A. Dickey, who was abused as a child, but eventually dealt with the abuse and shame. Now he helps others. Many people in similar situations have lost their lives, whether literally or figuratively, because they were unable to handle the pain of dealing with the past.

Where I’m going with this?

I read a book by Sue Grafton, New York Times bestselling author of the Kinsey Millhone mysteries (A is for Alibi, etc.).

I knew very little about Sue, other than she divides her time between California and Kentucky, and she once wrote screenplays for movies. I’ve seen her in person at mystery cons and even shared a bathroom once. (No, I didn’t slide a manuscript under the door of her stall or accost her with a barrage of questions while washing our hands at the sink. Yes, she seemed nice.)

The book I’d found in our local library was called Kinsey and Me: stories. The introduction said the first two-third of the book contained mystery stories with Kinsey in them. The stories in the last third of the book, however, were about Sue Grafton. They were written in the 10 years after her mother’s death, long before she began writing her mysteries.

I enjoyed reading Kinsey’s mystery stories. Then I came to page 205.

The stories were very different, rather literary, dealing with the memories of a young Sue who grew up in a sadly dysfunctional home. Nothing like the mysteries. But compelling.

I discovered why Sue’s protagonist, Kinsey Millhone’s parents die when she was five. In real life, Sue grew up with alcoholic parents after her dad’s two-year stint in the army — when Sue was five. Her dad was a functioning alcoholic, and her mother non-functioning and occasionally suicidal. Sue and her older sister basically raised themselves. They also looked out for their mother, who was only occasionally a “normal” parent.

Sue married at 18, had a baby, then divorced. When Sue was 20, her mother committed suicide.

The short stories were written in the decade after her mother’s death. Sue says she wrote them as “my way of coming to terms with my grief for her.” (p. 209) Sue remarried twice before she found her present husband.

A couple of thoughts that stood out to me.

“I wish life could be edited as deftly as prose.” (p. xvii.)

So true. Is there anyone who wouldn’t like to go back and rewrite the story of his or her life, erasing all the pain, making everyone kind and everything positive? But we can’t go back. We have to learn from the past instead. Forgive, and ask forgiveness. Forge on, trying to write a better storyline into our future.

“Wisdom comes at a price, and I have paid dearly for mine.” (p. xvii.) So many have paid dearly for their wisdom, and yet not all make use of that wisdom.

As I closed the book, I still don’t know why some people are able to overcome the past and others aren’t. I just know Sue Grafton is an overcomer. It wasn’t easy. She spent years dealing with the pain of her childhood and wrong choices made as a result of the confusing messages she’d received. But she made it through, and carved out a new life. She established a solid marriage, raised three daughters, and became a world-renowned mystery writer at age 37.

The past is always going to be the past. The future is not yet written.

I felt sadness for the young girl who didn’t know what it was like to have a “normal” life with caring, responsible parents. I identified with the sorrow of the adult who would love to somehow make everything better for everyone. But I also felt great respect for the girl/woman who dreamed of a better life, and made it happen for herself and her children.

Seasons change. Even when we feel small, there are ways to overcome the feeling.

Seasons change. Even when we feel small, there are ways to overcome the feeling.

It’s never too late to become an overcomer.

Speaking of which, you might want to listen to this song by Mandisa. It’s called “Overcomer.”

Mandisa – Overcomer (Official Lyric Video) from mandisa on GodTube.

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  1. The text on my homepage begins, “While I may have faced what many say is a life of extraordinary challenges, in the end my story is everyone’s story.”

    The highlights or maybe they’re the lowlights: Suicidal depression, a suicide attempt resulting in blindness, an eating disorder, addiction to prescription narcotics.

    Yet, today, I am happier than I ever thought possible. How did I get here?

    I had a wonderful childhood. I grew up lacking nothing material but was raised to value hard work and to always try to be and do the best I could. In short, I was raised with sweetness and light. It was when I got out into the larger world that the trouble started. I married three weeks after graduating from college. That was no good. It ended in divorce two years later. Then I tried my hand at business. I was no better at that than I had been at marriage. At the age of 26, feeling like pretty much a failure, I moved back in with my parents. What had happened to that charmed life I was supposed to have lead? Life was supposed to be lovely and rosey, nothing bad was ever supposed to happen, and, if something bad did happen, it couldn’t be discussed or explored because that would make it real.

    So I kept my depression to myself. I kept my suicidal thoughts to myself. They grew and festered and eventually lead me to shoot myself in the head. Then I had blindness on top of the depression to deal with.

    No doubt there’s a bit, okay, maybe a lot, of the survivor in me. I discovered determination, steel, and raw nerve that I had no idea I possessed. And I had help. I had two excellent blind rehab professionals who taught me the skills of blindness.

    I also had a no-nonsense doctor. When I was in the hospital, weeping over the loss of my sight, weeping over the loss of my way of life, he sat in my windowsill and said, “What wrong?” What’s wrong? You idiot, I thought, I’m facing the rest of my life as a person who is blind! What the hell do you think is wrong? Then he told me that I had two choices. I could sit there and moan and weep and waste the rest of my life or I could pull myself together and do what needed to be done to rebuild my life. Then he left the room.

    My first thought was, “You jerk!” But that’s what I needed to hear.

    And today, I’m married to my husband of 28 years, Jim. I have a great job with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. I’m working my beloved fourth dog from The Seeing Eye, Kismet. And I’ve just published a book, Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation.

    So while there’s no easy answer to the question of what makes some people survivors and thrivers, and what makes others quitters, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

    Sue W. Martin

    • Wow, Sue!

      Thanks so much for your comment, here. And thank you for illustrating that anyone can fall into depression and feel there’s no hope.

      You’ve definitely been an overcomer. So glad you had the help you did, and that your doctor challenged you, and you responded as you did. And so glad you’ve been able to do so much since. Congratulations on the book, too!



  1. […] memoir on escaping domestic abuse, a baseball pitcher’s memoir involving sexual abuse, a bunch of non-mystery stories by a mystery writer with a difficult childhood, and a memoir about finding God at Oxford. So much for my preferring […]

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