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Garden of Selves

In my head, various parts of me carry on a running conversation — each with a different agenda. The Artist yearns to make our yard gorgeous; she knows beauty feeds deep needs. The Environmentalist urges getting rid of invasive plants, no matter how pretty.

Digger loves the satisfaction of physical work in the garden; thanks to her I finally learned, at age 50, what if felt like to be fit. Aching Back has to remind me I can't do what I did then, in fact I have a habit of forgetting (or denying?) my limits. Sulky avoids the garden altogether if she can't do what she wants there.

Plantlover cherishes every one of her babies, and grieves when one fails. Positive Attitude directs my attention to the plants who are survivors, the tough, well-established lovelies who stand out in splendor.

Realist is concerned that some chemicals may have to be used to control invasive plants and insects ravaging valuable native ecosystems; PWEI (person with environmental illness), coming from first-hand experience of the damage chemicals wreak on human health, fears their effects on the ecosystem too.

Jungle Bunny wants the garden teeming with plant life, exploding with color, plants growing into and through each other in glorious abandon. Formalist gets more pleasure from order, from the quiet calm of balanced composition, the clear delineation of edges. Artist is divided between the two; Plantlover warns about sanitation problems in jungle, as well as survival of the most aggressive.

Sometimes the exchange between these folks gets heated, and I get uncomfortable juggling their needs. I used to think having conflicting points of view was crazy; I should pick one and stick to it. But I've learned that trying to do that, is what's crazy-making. The rejected ones don't go away; they just retreat underground, biding their time with growing resentment. Meanwhile my conscious thinking becomes narrow, inflexible, and less competent.

Instead the trick is to enjoy the rich humor of the relationship among all my personas. Not to get carried away by any one of them, not to shut down to the complexity of real life, to just step back and appreciate the vitality their dialog gives me. When I make a decision, all parts of me have contributed.

Each individual contributes a valuable element to the community. You could call it a collective form of government, a Council of Selves. Or a Garden.

© Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 2 December 2005

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