I wanted to share my story. Thousands of families all over the UK face homelessness and the issue has become unbelievable hard since the pandemic response created greater poverty and drove up house prices with high demand. As private landlords all over the country, kick out tenants to make greater profits using homes as holiday lets, I found myself joining the throng of desperate people trying to find a home.
My journey has led me to a place of surrender, a practice I share a lot in my work, so here is how I arrived at this place of non-doing, this is part one, I hope to share more as I move through.
11 months ago, after a decade living in our rented, family home in Milton Abbas, Dorset, my landlord gave us notice to move. That was September 2020, the craziest year on the planet so far. And here we are a year on, still in our home with no idea where or when we will be moving, literally awaiting eviction.
The shock of bad news
To say getting notice to leave was a shock would be an understatement, I’d recently spent thousands of pounds and endless hours renovating our rented cottage and was blissed out enjoying the results of creating my perfect home at last. It never crossed my mind that our landlord, who is also our neighbour and watched us working hard on the house during summer 2020, was also thinking that our days here were numbered.
He told me he wanted the house back as a holiday let. Here on the farm where we live, he has 13 holiday lets and he wanted our cottage back as the ‘flagship’ holiday cottage for his business. Our cute, quintessential, Dorset cob cottage, our home and where the children have spent a decade feeling settled and safe, now seen with another profit making pound sign over its head and a ready queue of holiday makers, keen to stay in the UK for the next few years as covid travel restrictions continue and the masses head to Dorset to increase the bank balances of holiday let owners across the South, but leave local families like us, out on their ear.
The initial shock was physical, that gut wrenching feeling when we get sudden bad news, feeling sick, faint, dry mouth, tears and exhaustion. Friends were lovely and rallied around with tea, meals and tissues, ringing everyone they could think of who might have a house to rent, somewhere close by. It became very clear, very quickly that houses were becoming extremely hard to find. Prices were rocketing within hours of becoming available, as Londoners, desperate to leave the city, were offering £100s over the asking price for rentals, landlords being offered 12 months rent in cash over the phone without even viewing a property.
On Rightmove that first night after that fateful news from my landlord, I found 2 potential properties and was told they had already gone when I called about them the next day. Day one of my continuing journey to try to find a home, set the scene for the complete void of homes for someone like me, to rent in our area, absolutely nothing.
I think we all remember those moments throughout our lives, when we hit breaking point and I may never forget those few days after receiving our marching orders and how it affected us all. I managed to hold my emotions in for a few days, not saying a word to the children and feeling determined to get myself to a stronger place inside, so that when I gave them the news, they’d see me feeling brave and know that they could do the same. But sadly I fell apart before I had time to gather my energies together. My youngest child, my teenage son Lenny and I, were cutting the grass the day after my initial shocking chat with our landlord. I was getting frustrated with our decrepit mower, when Lenny asked me what was wrong as he could see I was struggling, I let go of the mower, fell with a bump to the ground and started crying, well, it was possibly more of a wail, ‘We’ve got to give the house back!’, he joined me in my heap and held me tight, sobbing with me in his shock and confusion. Sometimes we try our best to hold it together for our children, but sometimes its too much and its impossible to contain.
My situation is no different from any other single parent or low income family in England. Airbnb has caused thousands of private landlords to kick out their tenants and make a huge profit renting homes out to holiday makers. Its a real and shocking trend right across the country, but here in the South West, I fear we will soon be a giant holiday park, with very few real, local, families living in our picturesque area, due to the demand for holiday lets. My landlord doesn’t Airbnb his cottages and his business here has been established for over 20 years, but my cottage has been let out to tenants for decades and I am one of a huge and growing number of people who are finding it impossible to find a new home and now face homelessness.
Councils currently have year long waiting lists for families in crisis, estate agents need tenants to have an income 3 1/2 times the rental price to qualify or ask for rent to be paid upfront, with prices around here averaging £1300 for a modest 3 bedroom home, I currently pay £950, I’d need to be earning at least £54,600 a year or have £15,600 in savings, to stand a chance. Business is good at Mellulah, but I don’t do what I do for the massive income thats for sure!
My marriage ended in summer 2020 so I’m in a low income bracket, I was a lone parent when I rented my house in 2011 but back them my father was still working and he could guarantee my rent, he’s now retired so no longer qualifies as a guarantor.
Finding my inner lioness
So, it all looks pretty bleak and a bit depressing.
But I gave up being a victim a long time ago. There were many times in the past, bringing up my three children alone, broke, struggling with anxiety, abusive ex partners and in recovery from addiction, where the choice to remain in a victim mindset or become a warrior was clear. I don’t feel any self pity, it took me about four days, that first week to summon up my lioness energy and confront my landlord. I turned that sobbing wreck of a woman, lying on the grass next to the lawnmower with my son, into a fierce, protective, angry and determined warrior, who gave him hell outside on this front lawn until he agreed he’d behaved appallingly and gave us more time to find a home.
Little did we know last September, when we agreed that we could stay here until my middle daughter Mimi finished her A levels, that Winter 2020/21 would be such a disaster in continuous lockdown. In March 2021 I wrote to my landlord, asking him for patience, as my income was still very low with the business being closed and the housing market was still shocking with nothing to even go and view. He took two months to reply and finally in May he wrote back that we had until summer, autumn at the latest to move on.
Its now September, Lenny is due to go back to school in a few days for his final GCSE year, Mimi is about to set off to London to university, my eldest daughter Betsy is back and settled in Bath working hard, I have viewed one house in a year, it was a shoebox and I had the choice to get rid of around 80% of our belongings to fit into it, or reject it. The idea of telling Lenny he had to get rid of his drum kit and piano and selling most of our furniture to squeeze in, was too much, so I said sorry, no.
Estate agents tell me the situation is horrendous and unprecedented, I am tired of them telling me how my income is too low, how landlords don’t want my cats or my little dog. I am fed up with my landlord for suggesting I move into a shoebox size house and then telling me he’s tried his best to help when I refuse it. I am sick of getting excited when a new listing pops into my inbox on my Rightmove alert, only to be added to a waiting list of 50 other people wanting the house, and the call back that never comes as I’m not an economically viable tenant when you have rich city folk, professional couples and pet less, childless people ahead of you. I’m frustrated with the number of conversations with friends and clients I have, who are in the same boat, what are we supposed to do? What is the answer?
I don’t have the answer, but I did make a decision. I made a decision to give up and so here I am writing this blog, part one in what I hope may eventually be a story with an ending, about how I stopped trying to find a home and instead surrendered myself and my family to the Divine.
The advice of a tree
My lovely new boyfriend and I, snuck away in early August to a beautiful cabin in the woods on the Dartington estate in Devon, for some chill time away from it all.
It was a blissful few days, surrounded by trees and nature, walking through the woods barefoot, wild swimming in the magical River Dart and enjoying some time out. Those few days were a welcome distraction from the ongoing search for a home and the endless frustration about my situation.
On the last morning as we left to return home, we went to say goodbye to the owners and they told us about their own journey from London to Devon and how it had all started with a tree in the woods there. As they too had struggled to find a home, they’d gone to give one of the ancient trees a hug and prayed for help in their search.
They gave us directions to find a clearing where its thought there had once been a settlement, always a sign that the earth energy will be magical as our ancient ancestors always built their homes in areas with strong leylines and earth connection.
Before setting off back to Dorset, we went to find the trees. We soon found the clearing and chose a tree that was calling to us for a big hug. We stood either side and wrapped our arms around. I went into a deep meditation and began to ask the tree for help, guidance or wisdom on what I was supposed to do, how was I going to find somewhere for my family to settle, what would become of us if I didn’t and was there a greater plan that I couldn’t yet see.
I wept tears as I felt tremendous healing energy coming from the tree, a warmth and glow that filled me with a sense of beauty and awe at its powerful flow. The guidance began and was very clear.
The tree told me in no uncertain terms, that I needed to completely stop trying, I needed to stop the search, call it off and from that moment onwards I was to cancel my rightmove alerts, stop ringing up estate agents, end the pleas on our local facebook community page for a home and do absolutely nothing.
I cried and cried as I knew that giving up and surrendering really were the only options left available to me. I turned up my palms and let my fingers fall, symbolising the intention to let go of all control, to allow everything to fall from my hands and to completely trust that we will be caught and carried in Love.
A year of trying and dedication to my search had got me nowhere, it was time to hand over the next step in our lives, to the Universe.
The tree told me that the next step had to happen to enable me to be of more ‘use’ to the world with the healing work I do and that I needed to completely allow the path to unfold and flow without fear.
There have been many times over the years where I’ve been asked by Spirit to ‘swear’ my commitment to the healing energy and my work and I went through this commitment prayer again that day, with the tree. In humbleness and selflessness, I committed myself again to my work and to do whatever I could in pure service to the Divine. Accepting that I was not in charge of my destiny, but that I am here to serve and be willing to go wherever and do whatever is needed to fulfil my soul purpose.
I made this prayer with the tree and humbly committed my deep, strong faith that we will be looked after, we always have been and I am absolutely sure that we always will be. If my faith is pure then there is nothing to worry about, I know that whatever happens next, is meant to be and is right, even if it feels wrong, because we are here to learn and no soul ever learnt anything by having an easy time.
The tree gave me no indication of what might happen next, but said that I would be ‘plucked’ from where I am and placed where I should be. We parted ways and I felt stronger, lighter and ready to return home and give in.
If the tree told you then Mum!
On arriving home, I sat the children down and told them what the tree had guided me to do. I admitted that as a single mother, it could be seen as irresponsible, when faced with homelessness and an urgent need to house my family, to call off the search. Beautiful and understanding as ever, they smiled, raised their eyebrows and warmly told me that if the tree told me to do that, they were willing to also put their trust in the process.
Bless them and their courage, their trust and for putting up with me!
As I come to the end of this first part of my story, there is no other news to share. I gave up three weeks ago, I’ve resisted the temptation to check house websites online, if anyone asks me how the search is going I tell them what the tree told me to say ‘God will decide what happens now’ and I feel that so strongly inside, I don’t mind the startled looks and offerings of advice about how I really must try.
I hope to be able to update you all with news soon in Part Two, but who knows, there maybe nothing to report!
In the meantime my landlord may decide to put pressure on, he could begin the legal process of eviction and there could be potential for a lot of stress. I am full of hope and faith, plus a complete letting go of all attachment to outcome, if I can accept the worst, homelessness, sofa surfing, a caravan, a yurt, then I have let go of expectation and nothing can drag me down into despair.
I feel willing to accept that the next step may not be ideal, but that it will be part of a process and as I move onwards through this journey, I hope to let go of ego more deeply, let go of control. let go of thinking I know better than the Divine about what is right for me, I hope to be able to experiment completely within the practice of surrender.
Ishvara Pranidhana – I surrender completely to God.