I have a little garden of affection, where I feel affection for anyone who steps into that garden. I will be loyal to them, help them if they need it, devote time and attention to them. This garden is (mostly) unconditional; it does not decide who within it gets its fruits, or if they’re worthy enough to eat; the only requirement is to be in the garden.
But my garden has the gatekeeper, who decides who to let into the garden. I might see someone who doesn’t have their shit together, who needs a lot of emotional labor, who might cause me a lot of pain, who I will struggle to understand, and know that I could love and care for them.
The question is not if I have a garden that would accept them, but rather if I want to let them into my garden. My gatekeeper is cold and brutal. It checks how many resources my garden has, how many people are in there already, how sustainable it is. It evaluates potential entries on concrete facts – how emotionally mature are they, how intelligent? How much power do they have? Are they socially strategic to be associated with? Will they increase your garden capacity to hold others in the future?
And so, right now my choices around who new to allow into my garden is associated mainly with an unflattering calculating strategy. My life is a chess game, and these players are the potential pieces.
This is particularly true with my life right now; I’m looking at potential mates as strategic moves. Really I suspect this is what I was doing all along, and likely what many other people are doing, it was just much more subconscious before.
But the gatekeeper itself is not allowed in the garden; once in the garden, the newcomers are free from evaluation. If they drop in power, if they stop helping me, if they start absorbing way more emotional energy, then in my garden they remain; doused in affection and unconditionally accepted.
My garden carries many powerless people from earlier places in my life, or from high-proximity adventures, or people who came in attached to someone else who my gatekeeper wanted more. I am not evaluating them, my love for them is not dependent on what they can offer me; they simply reside in my heart. I have no regrets about this and it’s not an issue for me that my gatekeeper might continue to reject people similar to them.
(also to be clear, the garden analogy isn’t perfect and I’m oversimplifying; people don’t always stay in my garden forever, it’s not exactly binary if you’re in/out of the garden, there are different garden levels, and I don’t think literally everybody would be automatically and unconditionally drowned in affection once they got past the gatekeeper)