Dearest Melanie, welcome to a new year.
This year, I am opening my heart to God. I will no longer choose doubt over faith: I vow to see magic in the stillness of my soul, in the towering redwoods off the Marin coast, and in the groves of olive trees in my new home. I have faith, too, in people: in the kindness of strangers across culture and borders, in the wisdom of spiritual community, and in my ever-growing family. I do not walk alone, even in the darkest of days, and for that I am very grateful.
This year, I invite in curiosity and humility, practicing the deep listening and looking of a student. I will ask instead of assume, and seek opportunities to learn rather than lead. In this new place, I know that I will often know nothing. I vow to greet this unknowing with wonder at all there is to learn and patience for my own growth, slow as it may appear.
Aware of my fear of not being good enough, ever, I will practice stopping to touch the sufficiency of this moment and to touch my sufficiency as I am. I am enough in this moment (and so are you, dear reader!). There is no shame in not knowing. Instead, there is so much beauty, for it means that I’ve followed my heart to brave new territory.
This year, I invite in the tender and fierce guidance of my teachers: to know my own heart more deeply and to develop confidence in my own voice. When speaking, I want to be present with my fear of hierarchy and title, honoring my elders without needing to compare or fear judgment. I want to follow more: to practice stepping back and making space for others. I am aware of my tendency to lead — rooted in a pervasive fear that otherwise I’ll be invisible and unloved — and I know that stepping back will help me tend to this fear.
This year, I intend to study non-violent communication, Interplay, body awareness and resilience. I aspire to the Order of Interbeing, the community of lay members in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition devoted to serving the sangha and following the 14 Mindfulness Trainings. I vow to serve my teachers with enthusiasm, joy, and gratitude.
I intend to visit our tradition’s root temple in Hue, Vietnam.
I invite in song and dance and celebration of self, learning new methods of expression like pottery and poetry. I will skip down hills, walk with my eyes closed in meditation, dance when called, and invite my mischievous inner child out to play. I will continue to write essays about my (mis)adventures, and maybe I’ll write a book.
I am open to start dating and exploring the nature of romantic partnership. I am interested in a partner that can touch joy and celebrate difficult emotion, that knows their own heart and is unafraid to follow it, and that has deep aspiration for service and community. Aware of my own fears of commitment and loneliness (and standards for partnership), I vow to look for intimacy and love not just in romantic relationship but also in friendship and community.
I want to cultivate my community of friends around the world. Visiting, collaborating, sending messages of love and gratitude: these are offerings that can maintain friendships across space and time zones. I am committed to attend the wedding of my best friend Ellen, whenever and wherever it may be. I will love and celebrate Lisa and other dear friends, offering them my full presence and plutonium energy.
I want to walk (or drive) more of my friends to their doorsteps. I want to give surprise gifts, to say kind words, and to be loving and generous with everyone I meet. My time in this physical body is limited, and for the time I am here I want to love fully, to give fully, and to wake each day without regrets.
Melanie of 2018, I thank you for the beautiful journey of the past year. I am so proud of your commitment to following your heart and your willingness to step through the open doors, even when afraid. Last year, you walked 400 kilometers across the Pyrenees, over farmland and red clay fields, making friends with land and humans along the way. You spent months in Jerusalem, three weeks in France chaperoning twelve Palestinian students, and a month in Japan with your family. Not to mention the four months you spent living in two Buddhist monasteries! You are a crazy, brave, wonderful human being, and I honor your path.
This year, I wish you joyful bursts of swimming in the glorious cold ocean. I wish you moments of quiet watching candles burn down to darkness. I wish you love until your heart feels like it will burst, and courage that allows you to keep on when you feel like quitting. In each moment, may you see how beautiful you are and how tender your aspirations.
I love you, and welcome you to a new year.
Love, love, love,
January 10, 2019