Life doesn’t always work out the way we’d planned. Sometimes we’re not sure what we’ve planned, but we know that illness, money troubles, death and loneliness aren’t it. Yet, somehow, even when life has given you lemons and stole the squeezer, we keep going.
In The Art of Not Falling Apart Christina Patterson, triggered by redundancy from her job at The Independent, explores whether there is an art to keeping calm and carrying on. Through interviews with friends and famous people, she explores not only the media friendly idea of success, but disappointments, and what helps people get through.
It’s a joyously easy read. Christina is a warm and intelligent writer who brings the perfect balance of herself and others into the story. Individual stories are given centre stage, but in the process the book explores how we talk about death, the importance of anger, why we’re scared of single people, and the importance of jobs for our wellbeing.
She talks about the importance of ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will,’ an expression used by Antonia Gramsci. The former means that you realistically assess the world and events, the latter means that you get up and carry on. It’s about having the courage to do difficult things: ‘it means that when your world has fallen apart you get out of bed anyway.’
As hard is life is, it’s important to hold on to those joyous small moments. Christina has a thing for crisps and wine. She writes rapturously about how they’ve been there at some of the best and worst times of her life. But these aren’t guilty pleasures. They are pleasures, the things that make everyday a little celebration of being alive.
Christina has been very lucky. She’s held amazing jobs, owned property in Italy, played a big part in London’s buzzing art scene, travelled round the world, and generally enjoyed middle class niceness. She’s also had a tough time – death of her parents, redundancy from The Telegraph, breast cancer, lupus and acne. No one’s life is perfect. Things don’t always work out how you wanted. They can’t be perfect, but as she says, ‘I’m beginning to learn that it’s sometimes OK just to say ‘I had a nice day.’
Published by Atlantic Books.