An annual love letter to self


To a body in transition, a womb in flow, a being of the gingko trees, 

Here you are. You are in the process of becoming, cocooned in the cozy protection of home. You are planting roots and growing towards partnership and family. You begin a new job tomorrow. In a few days you will move to a new house in North Berkeley, with a bathtub, garden, and dear friends, closer to your love Ryan. Outside a rainstorm drums and the wind sings. 

In this quiet moment, in transition between rest and work, youth and maturity, individual and family, I invite you into stillness. Breathing in, return home to your body. Breathing out, rest in peace. Awakening to the miracle of life, dying to each moment. In and out, let the cycles of breath carry you through the winds of transition. Steady yourself in the breath. Trust in the emerging path to hold love and beauty. Be patient. There is no need to rush or compare yourself to others.

Life is precious. 

In July, I fell off of the bed in the early morning and slammed my head into a concrete planter. I developed a concussion with symptoms of dizziness, nausea, vomiting, an inability to work, look at screens, or read for days. I canceled my trip to Chenxing Han’s writing retreat at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, and used the time off to heal my injured brain. 

In December, between Christmas and New Year’s, Ryan and I took his beloved dog Gabby on an adventure to Half Moon Bay. The ocean waves were fierce, roaring and pummeling the shore with force. I made the mistake of venturing steps from the beach, Gabby in tow, and a powerful wave covered us in seawater. Gabby could have been swept away. I will carry the terror and love I felt in that moment with me into the new year. I must be careful with precious life. I will learn to take responsibility for the ways in which my behaviors impact the safety of other beings - myself, Ryan, dogs, or children. I must learn to see with the eyes of interbeing with fidelity and care.

Life is precious.

To the body that has gifted me the promise of motherhood, thank you. The eggs you have gathered in two cycles of IVF this year are a miracle - enough to forgo more rounds of freezing and to feel safe about my chances of motherhood. Thank you for enduring days of injections, monitoring probes, needles breaking skin. Thank you for your kindness and care even when I was ruminating in stress. Thank you for loving me. I am relieved and grateful for the end of this arduous journey and the continuation of a path towards companionship and family. 

In this new year, I am committed to steadying and healing my partnership with Ryan, building harmony and ease into the relational space. Perhaps we will create a shared home. Part of me is deeply moved, excited, hopeful. Other parts of me are terrified. I carry so much relational stress, part of an anxious-avoidant attachment style developed in childhood. I am learning to recognize and receive Ryan’s love, woven like golden threads through acts of compassion and kindness. He shows up for me, listens with curiosity, challenges me to grow. I am softening into our relationship and learning to trust a partner for the first time. 

Life is precious.

In April, I received lay ordination into the Order of Interbeing by one of my heroes, Sư cô Chân Không, with the lineage name True Light of Aspiration. In my letter to Thầy declaring my intention to ordain, I spoke of Chân Không’s courage and leadership during the Vietnam-American War, building the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS) at great personal risk. I was fortunate to meet Sister Chân Không again in May at Deer Park Monastery, where she spoke at a gathering for Action Wake Up, a 15-month residential program for young people committed to social justice. I aspire to her courage, creativity, and fearlessness every day. 

This past year I invested in caretaking for Beloved Community Circles, Beloved Bay Area, Action Wake Up, and Wake Up San Francisco. Beloved Community Circles won two grants, one based in Asian-American religious coalitions. A group of ten friends helped to form Beloved Bay Area, meeting monthly in Oakland, contemplating our role in social justice movements. Action Wake Up launched at the rains retreat this year. And I was able to support my beloved friend and mentor Jo-ann Rosen in facilitating a retreat at Morning Sun Mindfulness Center in New Hampshire. At times, I was able to unearth true beauty and power within myself, offering from the raw and real core of my being. Other times, I had to perform. 

I am recognizing fatigue and burnout in me after years of organizing and facilitating. Part of my journey to wellness in 2024 will be to reconnect to a consistent, nourishing meditation practice in trusted East Bay and online sanghas, where I can step back from or share facilitation responsibilities. A few years ago, a teacher I encountered at Green Gulch told me to live as if I was just a monk with a first name, to let go of my attachments to identities as a sangha organizer, engineer, and community builder. I resented her advice, but now I recognize the wisdom. Let go of attachment to being seen, to leading. Just practice. That’s what I want for myself next year.

Life is precious. 

My body is aging. My knees ache after long walks, shoulders and neck are tense from nightmares and poor sleep. My eyes are increasingly sensitive to light. I am not able to drive on the freeway at night or in the rain. I struggle to remember conversations without detailed note-taking. I am learning to welcome my changing body and abilities with love. 

At the same, I’m committed to learning ways to care for and renew my body. I’m excited to grow my skills and confidence in the kitchen, learning to make healthy and sustainable meals for Ryan, my friends, and myself. I want to reduce my consumption of takeout food and limit my snacking outside of meal times, as I recognize my eating habits can be fueled by stress and discomfort.

I am diving into daily movement practice after years away from the yoga mat. Yoga calms and energizes me at once, helps me to stretch and strengthen my muscles, improves my posture, and brings me into deeper states of meditation and ease. I want to improve my cardio so that I can keep up with Ryan while biking, and so I can utilize my bike for daily errands to the grocery store, Solano Avenue, or around Berkeley.  

Life is precious. 

In Palestine, friends struggle to find food and clean water. Others haven’t left their homes in weeks or months. Checkpoints set up throughout the West Bank limit movement. Those protesting the occupation on social media are arrested by the IDF, some killed. Teenagers caught throwing stones languish in prison for months or years, often without charges. In Gaza, no life is safe. People are dying by the thousands. Hostages are still missing. There is grief and horror and anguish when I can bear to follow the conflict. I breathe in the recognition of suffering, and breathe out a wish for peace. Trusting the breath to carry me through this pain, this transition - no longer in the West Bank or Jerusalem, still deeply connected to friends on both sides of the line. May ceasefire and lasting peace ripple across the holy land, healing and soothing all hearts.  

Life is precious. 

In early December, a young person named Nick Bess was shot and killed in Memphis, TN. Nick was a vibrant, beautiful human being, a son, a partner and father-to-be, a Code for America research colleague who I had the good fortune of meeting during a summer work trip. I mourn his early death and the loss of a father for his child. 

Life is precious.

This past year, I celebrated a transition to solutions engineering at Code for America, first as a Manager and now as a rising Associate Director. In 2024, I will orient towards supporting state governments in delivering safety net benefits to millions of people across the United States. I am curious and excited about the possibility of impact at scale. I am growing as a leader and strategic thinker, supported by a manager that believes in me and a collaborative and strong team. I feel very fortunate to enjoy my work and to feel a sense of purpose and belonging.

Dear one, here you are. This heart beating with steady resilience, softening, blossoming in love. Throat becoming unstuck, the pain and loneliness of years past given voice and held with kindness. I am so proud of the person you are becoming. 

May you know in each moment the preciousness of life.
May you go in love. 

With great respect and love,