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“Looking back on her topsy-turvy past, she is philosophical. “You can’t live your life blaming your failures on your parents and what they did or didn’t do for you,” she says. “You’re dealt the cards that you’re dealt. I realised it was a waste of time to be angry at my parents and feel sorry for myself.

“The low points I had all helped make up my character, so I probably wouldn’t want to do away with them because I like being flawed and I like having them help me grow and change and become better and stronger.””

Drew Barrymore, interviewed in The Telegraph today.

She’s right, of course.  It’s not just a waste of time.  It’s admitting defeat.  The thing is to keep on going, not to give up.  To pick yourself up when you fall.  To brush yourself down, have a quick look in the mirror, and smile.

I doubt that it has been any more straightforward for Drew Barrymore than for most of us, though she might make it look easy.  The earlier part of the article refers to her drug and alcohol addiction, her suicide attempt, her several spells in rehab, and her failed marriages and numerous short term relationships, and I wonder at what point she became so philosophical.  It sounds as if she had to wade through a lot of mire before she could climb out the other side, and I imagine that she cursed a great deal before she came out smelling of roses.

The thing is, if Freud is right, we have this unhelpful subconscious compulsion to repeat our worst experiences over and over again until we have found a way of dealing with them.  Whether we want to or not, we find ways of feeling those horrible old familiar feelings which are as painful as ever, until we learn to screw them up and consign them to the rubbish bin rather than allowing them to continue to screw us up.

That is why apparently intelligent women find themselves in disastrous relationship after relationship.  That is why a man junks one addiction only to replace it with another.  That is why yesterday’s hell comes back in a new disguise, creeps up on you unawares and then jumps out and shouts “Boo! Here I am again!”

To which the correct response has to be a rebellious and deafening “NO!” to the past, and a triumphant “YES!” to Life.

But to portray that “Yes!” as easy is to insult the struggles of millions of people, it is to denigrate the humble efforts day in, day out, made by ordinary people who will never look like Drew Barrymore, to break the mould and create a future that is not just a continuation of the past.  Many people have every right to feel angry with their parents and to feel sorry for themselves.  In fact, the best thing they may ever do is to feel sorry for themselves, to start to love themselves and care for themselves as a good parent would have done.  Feeling sorry for yourself does not necessarily mean wallowing in a deep depression.  It is not passive: it is active.  It is not pity for the victim, but compassion for the survivor that is required.  It is being as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend in the same situation.

I refuse to be made to feel “less than” by the ghost of my parents or the whisper of my sister, or their reincarnations that I am still slow to recognise.  But that is a battle that I have to fight every day, though the skirmishes on some days are shorter than others and there are happy days when the enemy seems to have vanished altogether.  I still need to keep a careful eye out for those hanging off the underside of the ladder.

And this is where I disagree with Drew Barrymore again.  I think it is essential to feel angry.  Though it is a mindful anger, not an ugly instinctive rage.  I need to harness the anger in order to ensure that I am not the victim pinned down.  My anger is my best tool and is the rocket boost to my will.  It is what energises me, what drives me forwards, what refuses to allow me to huddle in a corner.  I don’t have to feel angry with who people are today, but what they were when things were bad.  My anger says I am worth more than that: my anger prevents me from being the victim now.

You don’t like me?  You prefer somebody over me?

You know what?  That is your loss.

I want the attention she has.  I want the love she has.  I want to be like her.  I want to be funny.  I want to have lots of friends.  I want people to smile at me.  I want to have hair like her.  I want to have her unassailable confidence that she is loved.  I want to be free to be angry like her.  I want to do naughty things like her.  I want to be bad like her.  I want to be mean and spiteful and selfish like her.  I want to be lazy like her.  I want to say “I don’t care” and “Whatever!” like her.  I want to be preferred like her.  I want to be adored like her.  I want to be loved unconditionally like her.  I want to play like her and joke around.  I want to compete like her.  I want to be aggressive like her.  I want to do what I want like her. I want to lose my temper like her.  I want to be forgiven like her.  I want to be the one who sits on your lap.  I want to be the one who you go to when she cries.  I want to be the one who shares your bed.  I want to be the one who is comforted when she is frightened.

I don’t want to be responsible all the time.  I don’t want to be boring.  I don’t want to be the one who keeps quiet.  I don’t want to be the one who is grown up and doesn’t make a fuss.  I don’t want to be the one who is expected to behave well.  I don’t want to be the one who has to turn the other cheek.  I don’t want to be nice all the time.  I don’t want to be the one who has to achieve to get praise.  I don’t want to have to look after and care for everyone else.  I don’t want to be the one who puts others first all the time.  I don’t want to be the one who tries to please all the time.  I don’t want to be the one who lives on crumbs.  I don’t want to be the one who is anxious.  I don’t want to be the one who is sensitive.  I don’t want to be the one who allows herself to be a doormat.  I don’t want to be taken for granted.  I don’t want to have to compromise. I am the one who is strong and kind and reliable and generous and principled and intelligent and fair and unprejudiced and thoughtful and dependable and gives good hugs.  Though you cannot see that.  Or perhaps you can, and I just cannot see it.

“”The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance”.

Nathaniel Brandon