What Ifs

By Amy Knight

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The House We Live In: A Series on Building the Sustainable Home in Tucson, Arizona

One of the ways I’ve learned, over the years, to cope with anxiety is to be relentless in pursuit of reality. Say I’m waiting for a friend to pick me up and take me to the airport. What if she doesn’t come? Well, I’ve learned to say, if she doesn’t come, I’ll get a Lyft, and use the ride to make sure I’ve got everything set so I can get through security quickly to make up for the lost time, and if I get there too late to get overhead bin space for my bag, I’ll just check it, and at worst be a few minutes later on the other end waiting for baggage claim. That’s the answer to “What if she doesn’t come.” It’s not so terrible.

I’m still waiting on that last (only) bid. So what if it doesn’t come? Or what if it comes, and it’s unreasonable? Two main options: I’ll embark on an epic research project to find another set of builders, or I’ll put the project on hold, perhaps buy a little already-built house to live in for a few years, and see what happens with the building market.

Option A is the more immediately logical one. But as I’ve written about before, it’s been a tough year for me, and I’ve got a lot going on with work, and a book coming out this fall, and for various reasons, that just sounds harder than perhaps it should. It will take more time and googling and phone calls and meetings and decisions and evaluative brain power.

Option B would be tempting. My mom even researched the market a little and discovered a handful of sweet, small houses in nice, convenient neighborhoods that would be ideal to live in for a few years while I get my head straightened out and the building market here settles (maybe) or at least I get more prepared to wrangle it. That, of course, carries the feeling that I’ve given up on a dream, even if it’s only been tabled. It’s a lot easier to just never do it if the temporary solution is one that could potentially be permanent.

Neither is ideal; ideal would be the bid coming in and being perfect. Ideal would be that I’d have five bids in hand now, and perhaps I’d already have chosen one. It would be the friend showing up to provide the ride. But the “what if” question loses much if its power to terrify when it has an answer. I hope I won’t have to use them (although the photos of already-built, sweet little houses are at times incredibly tempting) but I sleep better knowing they’re there.



Amy KnightAmy Knight is the fiction editor for In this weekly series, she chronicles the process of designing and building an eco-friendly house in Tucson, Arizona. The series will explore both how it’s done and what it means, from the perspective of someone who wants to do the right thing but knows almost nothing about sustainable building. Look for new posts every Monday. You can email Amy at or leave a comment here. Visit her website, or follow her on twitter @amypknight.

Photo of stairs courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Amy Knight by Richard Whitmer. is the first online literary journal of place, publishing award-winning literature, art, editorials, and community case studies since 1998.