I’ve been drifting and feeling lost with no answers. My last long house-sit was in April. Since then I’ve been blessed with short house-sits, living rooms and welcoming friends. But after 6 months of transience, 8 towns, 3 countries, I’m wanting a base just for winter. But how can I afford rent? How can I even find a short let or long house-sit in Exeter? How, how, how?
At times like this I think of the hermit crab. Don’t you?
Hermit crabs don’t grow their own shell. Instead, they live in the shells discarded by other crustaceans. When they grow too large for their existing shell, they find a bigger one. But to go from one shell to the next, they must become temporarily shell-less, pink, soft and vulnerable, scurrying to their next safe place
When I feel totally stranded, it’s like being shell-less. It means I have grown out of my past and yet the future hasn’t materialised yet. I feel ungrounded, uncertain and vulnerable or afraid. Yet there is no use in trying to go back to what I was doing before – that shell no longer fits. The only way is forward. I will never find my new shell unless I completely focus on looking for it, without wasting energy hesitating or looking back.
So yesterday I put a request out on Facebook, holding out little hope. I thought to myself “What are the chances of finding a place to stay for the whole winter, in Exeter, that I can afford… sounds too good to be true?”
After only 24hrs, the impossible had happened: I’d been offered a room in a beautiful cottage, 2 miles from Exeter, from now until the end of January! Even more miraculously, I can afford it! All that’s been asked is a small contribution to bills and some help with DIY, but no rent. I feel like the luckiest houseless musician alive!
Well, amazingly some friends are doing up a room to start renting out at the end of January. Whilst it’s being re-decorated, of course they can’t let it… after all, who would want a room in that state? Who indeed, but a van dwelling musician needing an indoor space for the winter? Of course I don’t see it as a worn out, undecorated room, but a beautiful haven. I can get all my instruments out of storage and practice to my heart’s content.
Whilst this seems like a mutually beneficial arrangement, I know my friends won’t gain much from it financially. They are really doing me a favour, which I gratefully accept. Against all the odds I’ve been offered exactly what I need, and remembering the hermit crab has really helped me find it!
Of course some people might not like to see themselves as moving from one shell to the next, because of course all shells are rigid and limiting. But when a shell fits, its rigidness becomes stability and its limits boast corresponding freedoms. A shell that’s exactly your shape is a haven, but one that’s too tight is an agony. The key is to be willing to change it.
For the last 6 months, my shell has been “transience”, never staying put for more than a week. The restriction of having to constantly move on, felt instead like freedom to roam. Next my shell will be a room in a cottage where having to stay put will feel like having the freedom to settle and relax.
This year’s big turning point has been to stop fighting the fact that I change my shell often. I do have some constants: music, Buddhism, friends, but I definitely crave varied environments and to try new things. I didn’t used to think I could keep the same job for years, but now I think I could if it involved constantly working on fresh projects and visiting a variety of places (much like a touring musician I suppose).
So check your shell today before it gets too tight. It might be time for a new one.