Sigh, It's time for me to tell...
I am unable to build a new house.
I have to give up this idea and realize what I can and should do next and what will work for me.
The short version:
Ironically,as a person who has spent her life (or much of it) in community organizing, I have often spent too little time on my own comfort, on my own empowerment. When Katrina forced me to think about my life and what I would do next (because I was homeless and without stuff), I found many, many people that wanted to help me find something good that would come out of this tragedy. Two of these were friends who offered me the chance to own a house by selling me a open lot, and by doing so, asked me to think about my future and the logic of being set in a place.
I accepted their offer, and set out trying to learn how to pay for and build a house.
I come from a family of people who all have owned their own house at some point but few of them have been able to hold on to them, economics and migration changing reality constantly in my lower-middle income family, so knowing about houses was kind of new to me.
I did my usual thing of putting a few hours when I could find it to my plans, as I spent more time on being there for my city, my friends and my work.
At times, it seemed like the pieces were coming together, that I could actually visualize the house and how it would all work. Especially when my friend Mary connected me to Janna and David, architects from Toronto who wanted to do some good in New Orleans.
After spending time together, I felt I had made new friends and they felt my project was one they could spend some of their intellectual capital on and so, offered to help me. And they were cutting edge sustainability people, who did not laugh when I described my house ideas...
Also had a builder who seemed aware of the need to build sensible houses and do it well without a lot of bullshit, so all I needed was a smart banker...
I went to mortgage brokers- they said oh sure, then after telling me to do some stuff and get back to them, never responded to emails and phone calls.
Went to community organizations- Took my money for their classes or fees and then said oh we aren't helping with new construction..
Went to banks-they often were the most confused or rude, but I gotta give Whitney some credit for professionalism. But, also gotta say they wanted way too much and ended up being too scary to innovative builders too it turns out...
The window kept opening and partially closing and I would be sooooo close I thought to breaking ground, I could visualize it. Then one of the pieces would fall away, or health would falter or work would intrude for a while...
And then one day, the pieces just didn't fit anymore.
I sat in my apartment, thinking it all through, taking stock of what I had to do to get this done and what I had. I felt my heart sink and tears of frustration come, as I realized I would have to make this decision to move on.
What this means to me is I feel like a permanent refugee of Katrina. I feel like I have let myself down with this time and project to allow myself comfort and ease soon. I also feel estranged a bit from my friends who offered me this chance and who can probably not really understand why it is not working. I promise them and myself I am moving back to our neighborhood, but it seems hollow right now.
But, I also feel free of this burden of too many steps to build a house for someone like me who tries to live lightly in the word of dwindling resources and unequal wealth. I also am grateful for the temporary refuge of my French Quarter home and my new friend/landlady who has been supportive. I also am glad for my amazing work, which allows me to see all of the possibility of positive places and plans.
I am grateful for my new friends Janna and David, who I have not told yet that I must stop this. I love their design and feel like my city was robbed of having their work on display forever.
Because in the end, the modern society is what failed here. I with my long work days and obsessive focus linked with the bureaucracy of the banks, builders and city structures have all lost track of how a regular person without endless resources can stay in one place.
This comes across as sad. I am sad, but also always a optimist. I live in my favorite city, I will live in my neighborhood again soon and I will find ease and comfort.
Better, let's look at it as a lesson.