1 Big Idea to Think About

  • There is great power in saying no, but there is also equal power in saying yes to the things that are essential to you.

1 Way You Can Apply This

  • Think back to a time where you said no when you should have said yes. Why did you say no? Why do you wish you would have said yes? What can you learn from this so that you can say yes to what is essential in the future?

1 Question to Ask

  • What are the leaves that I am chasing in my life?

Key Moments From the Show 

  • The beginning a lifelong friendship (4:35)
  • Coming to the farm at Mount Pleasant (5:16)
  • Learning the lessons of Essentialism on the farm (7:44)
  • The great power of saying yes (12:00)
  • Saying no out of fear (16:17)
  • “Meaning comes in time” (20:43)
  • Living the good old days (26:15)
  • Becoming clear on what is essential (28:25)
  • Putting power in the things that matter most (35:27)
  • Chasing leaves (37:20)

Links and Resources You’ll Love from the Episode

Greg McKeown: 

Welcome, everyone, to the Greg McKeown Podcast. The goal of this podcast, the end goal, is to see if we can’t live a life that really matters, to focus on the essentials, to not get to the end of it all and say, “I missed it. I missed what really matters.” 

And today I have the privilege of introducing someone I have mentioned before on this podcast but never had on the podcast, frankly, because he said no to me so many times. Not very modestly, he points out that while I wrote Essentialism and I teach it, still he has lived as an essentialist, which is a little frustratingly true. He’s been a cornerstone in my life for over 35 years. He’s my best friend. This is Sam Bridgstock. 

Sam and I grew up together in North Yorkshire, England. Though it may not have seemed remarkable to others, our adventures on Mount Pleasant Farm in Selby were magic for me. The Bridgestock family became a second family to me. Their farmer sanctuary, a place of simplicity, of honesty, a sense of deepest belonging.

Sam radiates a certain kind of infectious energy. His wife, Anna, says that it’s like the tide. Whatever mode he’s in, whatever tone he’s in, impacts everybody around him. That’s true. His laughter, often at his own foibles, does have a certain magnetic force about it and drew me into a space of openness and honesty myself. 

Music was another of our passions. We used to tune into U2 and REM and The Levelers- soundtracks from our youth. We shared countless hours of quoting our favorite movies and TV shows, from Cool Runnings to Faulty Towers, laughing till we cried till we… 

Sam’s dedication to whatever he’s doing is unparalleled. It’s far greater than mine. He was always meticulous in maintaining his side of the shared bedroom. He was always tirelessly working on the farm. He approached every task with a certain quiet commitment. His love for the epic fantasies of Lord of the Rings and many others added another layer to our deep conversations stretching into the early hours. I remember falling asleep sometimes to those great tales.

Our friendship solidified through weekly Sunday night phone calls, and it was like a bedrock in my life in those days. But then, a few years ago, everything changed when Sam received a terminal cancer diagnosis. He was given a year or two to live, and that was the worst day of my life. And, of course, Sam’s, too. 

And I say everything changed, but in a sense, nothing changed, too. Since then, our conversations have evolved. They are perhaps more marked by raw honesty and sometimes a profound vulnerability, but also still punctuated with laughter. And in that sense, it’s how they’ve always been. So, despite this shadow, Sam’s spirit has been unbroken. Our bond is stronger than ever. He has lived for his wife, Anna, and for his children, who I love so much and my family loves so much. As we navigate this journey together, Sam continues to inspire me and many thousands of people, even millions, in various ways, with just an unwavering honesty with good sense.

So Sam is not just any guest. He is the person other than my Anna, that I have most wanted to have on the podcast all of this time. This friendship, with its depth, its authenticity, it exemplifies something of the essence of essentialism. It teaches me, at least, that such meaningful relationships and deep connection are the true purpose of life. 

Welcome finally to the podcast.


Sam Bridgstock: 

Well, with that introduction, I think we should just end the podcast. Why do I.


Greg McKeown: 

If you’d known it was going to be that nice, you might have come on sooner.


Sam Bridgstock: 

Absolutely. Yeah, I didn’t expect that. So thank you.


Greg McKeown: 

Sam, I think we have to go right back to the beginning. That’s what most speaks to me, and just walk on this journey, just reflect on it a bit. So, okay, what’s your first memory of us meeting?


Sam Bridgstock: 

I can’t remember the first memory of us meeting. I just remember the first time you came to my house and ended up with you in hospital. That’s always the kind of the memory that hits me is the guild that you’d come to my house and we’d introduce you to the farm and the games we played there, and you ended up with an eye injury in accident and emergency. So that’s my. It’s not the first time I met you, obviously, because you came as a result of already being friends, but it’s my earliest memory.


Greg McKeown: 

All right, give us those memories of the farm. I mean, that was quite a headline there. You come to the farm, and you end up in the hospital. Tell us more. Paint the picture for those who have never been to Mount Pleasant Farm.


Sam Bridgstock: 

Yeah. My mum and dad were from London, and my dad was made redundant. He was working in an artist artist studio. And with the redundancy money, they made the bold decision to get a house 5 hours north near York in the north of England, and they bought a dilapidated farmhouse with a couple of acres of land. So I actually, they came up when my mum was pregnant with me. So I don’t know anything different.

They were living in a caravan at that point with three children with me on the way. A small caravan, I must say. So I don’t remember that. And then you. We did this. My mum, dad did the house up and gradually kind of tamed the land. My mum and dad had no experience in raising pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, ducks. So there was lots of learnings and some bad days and some good days. But for me, as a child, it was, you know, you watch things on TV sometimes about, you know, Anna of Green Gables, and you have this image in your mind of this kind of idyllic childhood because of the beauty of the place.

I think for me, that was probably a reality. I had loving parents and a great freedom with the land. I think I learned early on that if you were outside, you could actually conquer most problems in your head, which might sound an odd thing to say. And I realized that if I was working or walking or just connecting with the beauty of the outdoors, there was a power that seemed to enable me to cope with all the other things in life. Pressures, score, insecurities, worries. 

So, for me, it was a great foundation. I think it was quite a privileged, innocent childhood. But, yeah.


Greg McKeown: 

When you liken it to Anne of Green Gables, that’s so interesting to me because I’ve read almost the whole of the Anne of Green Gable series because it’s sort of a classic in our family. And, of course, there’s a part of that that’s very romanticized, but that’s how I remember Mount Pleasant Farm, too. And so it’s interesting for me to hear you describe it in those romanticized terms as well.

Something like, I’m not making it up. I’m not pretending when I remember it in that way. Thoughts? 


Sam Bridgstock: 

No, I don’t think so. And I think, for me, I think it shaped. I mean, I’ve joked to you that I was the essentialist, and you kind of, you know, caught on with the journey later on, you were trying to achieve more dreams than me, maybe in different directions, which is one of your gifts. But I think. I think for me, growing up in an environment where if you didn’t get the hay in, you had nothing to feed the animals later in the year, and it cost loads of money, or if you didn’t go down now and feed the chickens or put them away, a fox would eat them. It sounds stupid. There’s certain things, if you’re doing farming, even at a small level, that have to be prioritized. If not, there is abject failure or sometimes an animal’s death. If you don’t get sheep in when the lambs are firstborn, and they’re not protected.

So I think, in some ways, maybe that’s just my experience of having land and animals. It did shape this sense of when there was invitations to do things, when there was different options, that there was a real sense of, we’ve got to pull together to make this work. And if we don’t, it could be a bit of a disaster. So, I think it did start a process within me, which was there are some things which are more important or some things which have to be done now.

And you can’t feel guilty for the fact that by choosing them, you have said no to something else.


Greg McKeown: 

Yeah. I mean, you’re speaking about what we might call the law of the farm, where trade-offs are so obvious and so clear, and your action and its impact is clearer than in other areas of life sometimes where something about just living in the social farm, it’s not as obvious the impact in the short term to action. But you’re saying I learned something about the. About essential trade-offs early. That’s what you’re saying.


Sam Bridgstock: 

Yeah. And I’ll give you a really, really silly example. When we were younger, we first got pigs, and we were very excited and they escaped. It was late at night, and so it was dusk. And you. You know, we’ve got. We had arable farming all around us. We have a ditch that they could fall in and die. And so we have, all of us, all eight of us out looking for pigs that, you know, seven, eight at night. Some of our neighbors helped us.

And I think that there were many moments like that where almost. It didn’t really matter what you do; you could be doing your homework, you know, washing up. Everything was dropped for this absolutely fundamental thing, which is we want to save the lives of these pigs and find them. And in that instance, we found them very happily in an adjacent field right near, you know, dark. But I think. I think there were lots of those moments.

And I think it helped. I mean, that’s a bit of a. Kind of a. Not a silly one, but a bit of a daft one, that you just physically lost them. But I think there were lots of moments like that. And I remember times when you called me as we became friends, saying, “Sam, come to Leeds. We’re going to do this event with some other young people. We’re going to go here, we’re going to go there.” 

And some of those events sounded wonderful. And I did say no more than maybe some people would because it was, well, we’ve got to do this job this weekend. My parents. Now, maybe that was a high sense of duty, but I think there was a sense of kind of, we have to do this now. If not, we’ve lost the moment, as opposed to, we can do this at any point all year. So I’ll go out, and I don’t know, I think it may have just helped me learn the power of prioritizing early on.


Greg McKeown: 

Yeah. And of natural seasons. You know, that you can’t, you know, you can’t cram on the farm. We might say, you know, you can. And I do. I do see that in you, even in those early years, not only just saying no to, you know, to me, the great theme of our friendship, but also the idea of just paying, you know, your dues in whatever you were working on. So the same would be true at school, right, where you would say, well, you just steadily work, always saying, oh, I don’t think I’m going to do very well in the exams, and then always getting straight A’s and everything.

Also, a bit irritatingly, I might say.


Sam Bridgstock: 

When I look back, if I was to change anything, I would say yes more. So it’s interesting, you know, there needs to be some honesty of the soul of when saying no. And I may be thinking now, later on in life, as opposed to my parents needing me for the weekend to do a job, but I think there is a power in learning to say no because we have a higher priority and we feel very empowered by that. And actually, there’s a clarity that comes with having a higher purpose, that means everything has its order.

But I look back, and I also know that when I was younger, sometimes I thought I was really good at being an essentialist. And sometimes, I think I was actually living in fear because sometimes I was saying no because I didn’t want to try something different. So I think I became quite good at being an essentialist, actually, of saying, this is what I want. I want to get really good grades, and I want to be a good help in the family and do well at school and uni.

But I look back and think, and I still think, now there’s a great power in saying yes, and there’s a great power in saying no. And it takes a lot of wisdom to know when we are actually caving into fear. And yes is a powerful option. And when saying no is protecting the things that mean most to us in our life.


Greg McKeown: 

You’ve just named that so. Well, essentialism isn’t saying no to everyone and everything without really thinking about it. That’s noism. And obviously, that’s not what. That’s a completely different thing. But the idea of saying no out of fear or yes out of fear. It’s to pass that and to say yes for the higher purpose. 

Okay. Looking back, do you think there were things you should have said yes to back then? Are there things that you think basically I’m asking, should you have said yes to me more often? That’s the real. That’s why we’re doing this. That’s why we’re having this conversation, Sam.


Sam Bridgstock: 

Okay, so this is the reason for the podcast. Not specifically to you, but I should have said yes more often. Yeah.


Greg McKeown: 

To what?


Sam Bridgstock: 

To kind of invitations to do things with people. I think I became very much, yeah.


Greg McKeown: 

Just to be clear, what you just said is, you shouldn’t have said yes more to me, but you should have said yes to other people more. 


Sam Bridgstock: 

No, generally, I should have said yes more. That’s the point is, I think that I became very blinkered in. I want to do well at. Well, we can give a humorous example, can’t we, here? And, you know, hope my wife doesn’t mind me sharing it, but when me and you were nearly 18 or 18, we were revising to my house. I think it was two months from our exams, and my future wife walks into my bedroom with my older brother and a few young people, and there was an invitation to go and spend the day in York with them.

And I say no because I am revising. And I think I was good at having a clarity of purpose, and I think it enabled me, Greg, to actually achieve more than I could have myself if just by being lackadaisical. I don’t think I had the natural academic kind of ability that I was just going to cram the night before and get straight A’s. I think I had to pay a price. Maybe that’s true of 90% of people.


Greg McKeown: 

Actually, I think it’s true of almost everybody. That’s the point, isn’t it?


Sam Bridgstock: 

Definitely true of me. But me and Anna, we still laugh about the fact that that day, you know, I said no to an afternoon in her company. And, you know, and there’s kind of different complexities around why I said no. But I think I learned really young the power of being focused. But I also think there was a negative side, which is you start saying no to things, out of using maybe those things as an excuse, when sometimes the fear, or there’s a kind of a reluctance to try something that could be outside of your boundaries. So I think for me, looking back, it’s.

I would. I would be as focused on my exams and helping, you know, my family farm because I valued my parents greatly. Those things I wouldn’t change, but I wish I’d said yes.


Greg McKeown: 

More. A little more. A little more adventurous.


Sam Bridgstock: 

Yeah. Little less fear, I would say. I think fear was behind some of those. So that’s why I think now, as you get older, it’s. I think I’m a little bit more honest with myself about. If I’m saying no, is it genuinely because I have terminal cancer? I’m not that well. I’m on pills, which can drain energy. I can’t do as many things. Or am I saying no because I have fear? And fear is not a good reason if you want to do something.

It’s the worst reason.


Greg McKeown: 

I have to say. I still feel embarrassed about that memory that you’re describing there, of when Anna came over and Miriam came over and everything. I still feel like. I don’t know why.


Sam Bridgstock:

It’s a great story. 


Greg McKeown: 

Yeah. But we just. I just remember, first of all, I remember not really being dressed to meet anybody. It was all quite a surprise. And so I think we were all just. We were just lounging about while we were revising. It wasn’t like we were ready to meet anyone. So I felt embarrassed from that point of view. And then I just thought, I don’t really have anything concrete, but I just remember feeling very silly and that we were.

I don’t know. I mean, obviously, we were silly back then, but some of it was just.


Sam Bridgstock: 

You, some of it was just youth and. Yeah.


Greg McKeown: 

How does Anna feel about this now?


Sam Bridgstock: 

Oh, it’s just a funny story, but. Yeah, it’s illustrative. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Because I bet I got no. I bet I got no work done that day with you there because I bet we just messed around. So it wasn’t really being an essentialist. It was. It was maybe saying no to a choice, which would have been a good choice.


Greg McKeown: 

I want to delve for a moment into what made that time meaningful. We’ll get back to this theme of yes and no. I think we should talk about that more. Like, I’m curious about what you said, about your thinking now, about when youre saying yes and no, but I want to still stay back on Mount Pleasant Farm for a bit. Why was that so meaningful? Because maybe you’ve already expressed it. Maybe youve already captured the essence of it.

But it was the shire. And for people who never went there, or for people who are trying to imagine this now, they’re probably imagining something, in one sense, more beautiful than it all really was back then. But in terms of if you just literally saw it. You might be a bit underwhelmed compared to all the things that you could see in the world and so on, but there was something, something more deeply meaningful about it all.


Sam Bridgstock: 

Well, maybe the meaning comes in time. When we look back and life, we realize that life in the world is not always a safe place. And then we go backward and realize that was a moment of safety and that that creates a power in the present, that we were safe, that there was a place that was where people were treated kindly. And, you know, for me, my mum and dad, you know, I had a great relationship, and we all, as siblings, liked each other, and we sat and talked a lot.

So for me it was just like, this is great, and you don’t know any different. But I think in time, I think I’ve often gone backward and drawn from the well of, I suppose, just a feeling of safety and protection and joy and lots of laughter. And then, you know, you get old, and you have to earn a living. You have children, there’s health issues with your kids, and, you know, there’s bills to pay, and there’s friends that go through terrible divorces that make you really sad, you know? So even actually, the great interest of being on life is you can have really happy circumstances yourself, but start to feel a great sadness by the sadness we see around us, whether it’s a global thing or, you know, a really good friend or a family member who’s gone through so horrific.

And I think in my youth, that was. I was protected from that. So I think maybe that was the magic that I didn’t almost know that existed for a season. And I think there is a beauty. And, I mean, I don’t think many people are having that now. They’ve been raised with phones and other things, which means they see the negative bits very early, and there’s no safe place. So maybe for me that was, that’s been the meaning that I found later on from it, because in the moment, it was just normal, it was just fun. But I think since then it’s. I’ve realized it’s quite rare and it can give a powerful. 

And there’s a quote from Harry Potter. I always butcher quotes. I can hear him in my mind. But it’s about Harry Potter’s, the love that the parent has for Harry. It says that to be loved like that gives you power forever. And I’ve got that quite right. But I think, in a sense, a great moment in my life gave me power for later on. It was a period where I was loved, and it was safe.

And maybe. Maybe that has been the focus then looking forward for me for what I wanted to give my children. And so that became, in a way, if you want to say, essentialism for Sam was that was always the number one priority, so you can work, but work was to provide for that. And everything was about giving them a piece of joy, laughter, space that I had, even though for us, it wasn’t on a small hold and it was in a kind of a normal home, I suppose.

And I think that did make me have a. That’s what I’m going to give. So I will sometimes say no to things because that endeavor is huge. You’ve got five children. There’s lots to, lots of them to give. And I was thinking about this recently. I’ve got kids who’ve done exams and being pulled in different directions to kind of support them and got lots of friends going through some difficult moments, difficult things.

And it’s a really awful choice, isn’t it, when you’ve got limited time or limited energy to say, who do I give my time to? Who do I send a message to? Who do I pick up the phone to? And for me, in the last six weeks, the choice has always been, you know, one of my children who is going through, you know, doing their degree or the GCSE’s. But I think. I think that can create guilt. That’s one thing I was going to mention. I think guilt is the thief of essentialism with that before, because it’s guilt that makes us say yes when naturally we have to focus on something that’s key.

And it may also be a guilt that. I’ll give you an example. I think guilt can be. You can feel guilty just because someone’s invited you out for a work meal and you can’t go because you’ve got a family event. And that might be an easy thing to say no to, but then there may be an invitation or someone who needs help, who has given us lots in our life, maybe a sister, a brother, a friend. And I think it’s very, very difficult to be an essentialist when we have to make choices when we have a finite time to say, “I will choose my child,” even though I love this other person and they’ve given me lots, and I know I need to somehow, at some point, get back and help them.

I think that’s difficult and I think it can create stress in people and then can kind of unsento them. They don’t quite know how to move forward.


Greg McKeown: 

Yeah. Something that is coming to my mind as you’re sharing this I was thinking back to the lockdowns, and that was a period that was not unlike the Mount Pleasant farm days for me and for our family. We were living on more land than we’d lived on before or since, and it was quite an idyllic place. And I remember saying to children, to all of us, quite a few times, “These are the good old days.” Like we’re living them right now.

One day, we will look back, and, of course, nobody wants lockdowns again, but we will look back to this time where we were just where what we had was each other and where, of necessity, you couldn’t have very much of anything else. And it was safe and it was full of light, and it was those things. And I think this is a bit of a paradox or an irony. Despite that was also the season that Eve became the most so ill and with an undiagnosed neurological condition.

And so there’s nothing safe inherently about that. That’s the least safe type of experience. But it’s a strange thing to think that you can have safety and a sense of peace even when troubles are going on if you can conjure that culture or something like that. And I think that was what was being done back there in Mount Pleasant Farm. But it’s also what I think you’ve done in your own home and with your family and have done over these last few years, right, like, where you’re trying to combine worst of circumstances but to do it in a way that isn’t the overarching feeling that it doesn’t consume everything and that, in fact, these are very sacred times.

And these years, in fact, these last few years for you and for the family have been. I mean, they’ve been the good old. They’ve been the good old times, too, in one sense, anyway. Do you have a reaction to that?


Sam Bridgstock: 

Yeah. I mean, I was thinking, before the call, for me, there’s almost like, if I was to think about essentialism, for me, there’s almost like pre-cancer and then post-cancer, and in some ways, the principles are just the same. I mean, stupid example, nothing to do with my cancer. But, you know. You know, I’m in this room now with a rubbish backdrop because I’ve allowed my child, who’s got an exam tomorrow, to have the best room where it’s got lovely, you know, books behind me. And I do think that’s, for me, been the constant choice all my life. And Anna’s like, “Why are you in your son’s bedroom? In this Harry Potter corner.” 

And I’m like, “Well, because Elijah’s stressed and has got an exam tomorrow, and all the other rooms were taken by kids doing things.” 

So I think there’s so many small things that dictate for me, you know, if you have a. I think if you have a real sense of clarity about what’s most important, things do fall away. And there’s a simplicity in your life. It’s like a. I don’t know, if you think of what your key accomplishments are or what the key things you want to achieve, then you can have loads and loads of priorities, but these key ones sit at the top of almost like a pyramid, and everything else goes down, and you choose in that, you know that it’s a constant in front of it. I think for me, I’ve been able to somehow, I think just having. Having that constantly before you just makes everything simple. And actually, you then stop wasting time on decisions.


Greg McKeown: 

So what is that for you? When you say, when you have it before you, what’s the it for you?


Sam Bridgstock: 

Well, I think for me, it’s the most important person in my world is my wife and then my five children. Beyond that, I have amazing friends, siblings, you know, in laws, and people I’ve met over the years I just really cherish. And I think having that sense of ordering people has made, just made things very simple. And it means occasionally you’ve disappointed someone because you have not given and I think…


Greg McKeown: 

Not what they wanted just when they wanted it.


Sam Bridgstock: 

Yeah. And I think also for me, I have, you know, I have strong faith. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and I’ve often spent time serving the youth there that would do camps and activity nights. And special occasions. And I’ve been given, I suppose, at times, responsibility to lead the church organization now. So there’s a constant. And sometimes my wife will say, “You should be doing more of this. You should be doing more of that.”

And sometimes that’s really helpful because you just need a little prompt or a little kick or someone who’s with you to kind of think, “Yeah, I can do that.” 

I even now push back and I’ll be like, “Anna, if I do that, I won’t. I’m already maxed out. I’ve already got so much time. If I do these extra things, I lose power in these other key areas.” And I know I do. So I will be a failure in these points. These are things I’m not achieving well, and I know it, which can be quite uncomfortable when someone compares you to someone who did do that well in the past.

And I think for me, that’s been what this kind of almost like this pyramid of who’s the key people going down. It makes it so simple. And you then have to just have the confidence that if you do that, it’s worth it. And for me, the difficulty with doing that as an essentialist in terms of being a parent is more important than maybe your career or your outside hobbies is kids can make terrible decisions, and they can go left or right when you want them to go straight.

And so there’s a vulnerability there. But actually there’s great power in knowing that I loved that child and gave them that kind of support and protection and love and encouragement. So I think for me, having that sense of priority is just everything and orders life. And I think you have to push aside guilt. I think guilt, as said before, is a huge problem to people because they end up trying to do everything for everyone, and then actually, their key friendships or their key family relationships become weaker or become strained because they’ve not really kept those prioritizing the way they should.

So, yeah, I mean, I’m now struggling to remember if I’ve answered the question.


Greg McKeown: 

No, I like everything you’ve just said and this idea. And there’s a few phrases you said that I really like. One is that if I do those other things, I will lose power in these other areas and other relationships that matter more to me. And I know that I will. And that’s an interesting way of expressing that I will lose power in that area. I think everybody listening to this conversation knows that sensation that you just don’t have the energy, the mental exertion. You just don’t have the resources to be able to really focus, on those people that matter most if you’ve tried to do everything for everybody else first.

So I liked that description: losing power. And the other thing that I think stands out to me as you’re talking about this, is how commonly people do exactly the opposite of what you’re describing here, not by design. Like, I don’t think most people wake up in the morning and say, I’m going to deprioritize my partner, my spouse, my children. I’m going to instead put all of that power and energy into a career over that. Maybe sometimes people do that deliberately, but I think, for the most part, it’s that they’re pursuing a strategy and a prioritization they don’t mean to be pursuing.

And so in that sense, refreshing to me and inspiring to me is just hearing someone who just does do it, just the consistency of actually putting it in that order and feeling the relief that comes from knowing what the order is. As you said, it puts it all in order.


Sam Bridgstock: 

A really small example, which is a bit silly, but outside our window, we’ve got loads of trees on our drive. And when we moved here eight, or nine years ago, we came to view the house in April, where the trees were green. It was beautiful. And then, as fall and autumn came, these trees, the amount of leaves they dumped in our drive was insane. And I like to have a drive that looks perfect. So I like things to be orderly.

And as I was literally going out every day or two with a brush or a leaf blower or a leaf sucker, and I would look out and almost be appalled that my efforts were destroyed two days later because there’d been a rain or there’d been high winds. So I was literally almost, like, obsessed, constantly going out, wasting hours, actually taking up leaves. And I realized in time that to do that meant I wasn’t sitting there with the kids after tea or I wasn’t being able to connect with a friend. That was important to me because I was literally running around like a headless chicken.

Now, of course, these leaves need dealing with, but I realized you could leave them for two or three weeks. And actually, what would happen is, really interesting thing is, if you left them in high wind, the wind would blow them into a corner. And it took me a while to realize that, and it’s not a perfect strategy, but you know what? It can save you hours of brushing. And so I thought. So now I actually watch these leaves come down in the fall, and I kind of laugh to myself, and I’m like, no, I’m not going to touch them.

So I’m going to speak to a friend, I’m going to chat to a child about his day. I’m going to wash up with Anna, and go for a walk together, because it’s a lovely evening. And before, I was more like headphones on, making this perfect life that actually no one else in my family cared about, like, no one in my family cared if those leaves on the drive but me. What a sad thing. You know, I have terminal cancer. I’ve got only, you know, a limited lifespan. And I. If I could have, you know if I hadn’t learned that lesson, I could have spent the last seven years spending all of the autumn out with every spare moment picking up leaves. 

And I think there’s a lot of that that we do in life that we need to just kind of almost calm and let there be a natural order to how we do things and not be panicking. I think a lot of what we do is because we want control. We want to feel like we are in control of our finances, our garden, our pets, our kids. And so we do more and more to give us a sense of we’re on top of things where, you know, things fine and actually who cares if the leaves are left there, you know? And I used to worry that it looked bad if people came up. No one’s bothered. And so for me that was an interesting, you know, relatively recent last few years that I’ve just, I smile now and look at them and think, yeah, what the heck? I can’t be bothered. I’ll leave them, and I will do something more important than chase leaves.

And I think we all figuratively chase leaves.