The words for grief

Hello you. This is Adib and some time back, you subscribed to Dispatches, a monthly letter that I write about our shared humanity and life in cities. It’s a new-ish format that I introduced a month ago and I appreciate you being here. However, if you already immediately regret that decision, you can unsubscribe here.

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“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach,” wrote Joan Didion.

If I had read these words last year, it wouldn’t have made much sense. Just like all the other words written by those who had to live with the loss of their loved ones. In fact, in a conversation with a friend who himself is carrying the weight of grief, we talked about how most of us simply do not have the language for it. Many of us struggle to find the right words to express it and to comfort it, and yet our encounter with grief is inevitable.

Many weeks ago, I wrote about how I’ve struggled to describe how I’m feeling to others. And so in my search of trying to put words to this human experience, I have been reading the words of others. Reading these words made me feel connected to a universal truth of our shared humanity: that of loss, that of grief, and that of trying to find a way forward. 

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“Here is what I have learned about Grief, though.

I have learned that Grief is a force of energy that cannot be controlled or predicted. It comes and goes on its own schedule.

Grief does not obey your plans, or your wishes. Grief will do whatever it wants to you, whenever it wants to. In that regard, Grief has a lot in common with Love.

The only way that I can “handle” Grief, then, is the same way that I “handle” Love — by not “handling” it. By bowing down before its power, in complete humility.

When Grief comes to visit me, it’s like being visited by a tsunami. I am given just enough warning to say, “Oh my god, this is happening RIGHT NOW,” and then I drop to the floor on my knees and let it rock me. How do you survive the tsunami of Grief? By being willing to experience it, without resistance.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, IG post on Rayya

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“Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.”

– Joan Didion, Year of Magical Thinking

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“The pain of the grief, that’s also a gift,” he said. “When you stop grieving is when you start losing contact with the person. But as long as you can grieve for her, then she will always feel very close. And so for me, actually, I welcome it. … Because then I feel much closer to her.” 

Eddie Chang at Storycorps

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“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.”

– C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

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“That is what I’ve felt like all of these months, like I am groping about in the darkness, waking up in a world I hadn’t expected to occupy. But there is no way through it except through it.”

– Nora McInerny, No Happy Endings: A Memoir

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On the topic of words, about a week ago, I wrote a post titled “100 days. 7 years.” in commemoration of a 100 days of Mizah’s passing which coincided with what was to be our 7th wedding anniversary. I offered a glimpse into life in that 100 days which has evolved from not being able to do nothing, to being able to do some things, and eventually a few new things. In very general terms, I am ‘better’ and have a lot to be grateful for but once again, these words are inadequate to explain how I am feeling now. But thanks to the community of grieving people out there who have had better success at it, enter the “Ball in the Box” analogy of grief: 


Imagine a box. There is a ball in it, and a “pain” button.

In the beginning, the ball is huge and it just keeps hitting the pain button. There is no way to control it and sometimes, it gets stuck on the button to release relentless pain.

Over time, the ball gets smaller. It hits the button less and less but when it does, it hurts just as bad. However, the ball does randomly hit that button when you least expect it, and there you are in pain again. 

For most people, the ball never really goes away. It might hit less and less, and one would have more time to recover between hits. But sometimes, the ball may unexpectedly increase in size for a while before shrinking back. And that’s just the way life is from now on.

Paraphrased & adapted from @Lauren Herschel on Twitter; first discovered via a FB post that was shared with me

Right now, as I type these words, the ball has been gradually shrinking. I am glad that I have the words of others who have had to go through this to help me along the past months and also what is to come. I am also very thankful for you for reading these words of mine. The grief that I write about is mine, but I’ve had many of you reach out to tell me that you feel it too. Thank you.

100 days. 7 years.

18/08/2020 marks a 100 days since Mizah passed.
It would also have been our 7th wedding anniversary.
It’s hard to not see it as more than a coincidence.

It’s been a few weeks since I discovered the coincidence of dates. It kept surfacing up in my mind and demanded attention, and I eventually did what all of grieving demands of me. I sat with it. I didn’t have the strength to revisit wedding photos and videos. But I did dust off the words that I wrote and promised her:

  1. I vow to always treat you with tenderness, warmth and love, not only when you are easy to love, but also when you are difficult or when I am.
  2. I vow to be your husband, your friend, your soulmate, in young and old age, good fortune and bad luck, dark sickness and pink of health and everything else in between.
  3. I vow to begin and end each day together with love and gratitude for your presence in my life.
  4. I vow to be open, loyal, respectful and truthful to you in every thought and action.
  5. I vow to love you for who you are and none of your current or future scars can make me love you any less.

We had also hoped for a life that we could live well with each other, have kids, grow old together, and then ’till death do us part’; but we only got two out it. That’s the life that we were gifted and it was still pretty damn good.

It’s no surprise or secret that she was the best of me and the one who brought out the best in me. I was a man in search for a home and I found it in wherever she was. She was my companion and my light, and now she is a star — one of the stars in the universe that might be gone but still sending its light through space and time, bright in the sky, beautiful to look at, and still helping me to navigate through new adventures.

It’s fair to say that the last 100 days have been nothing short of a wild adventure. In that time span, I have:

  • Lived through the Hari Raya Puasa & Hari Raya Haji festivities without her
  • Lived through her birthday without her
  • Went into isolation and then learned how to crawl out of it to meet close friends and family.
  • Packed and donated away a lot of our things
  • Experienced too many flashbacks from the last 3 months of the most intense stage of caregiving while under Covid19 lockdown
  • Seen my therapist a few times
  • Slept very little and a lot
  • Cried a lot at predictable times. Then a lot at unexpected times. And now just letting it happen when it needs to happen which on the whole is slightly lesser
  • Struggled with being sad, and then learning how to live with it
  • Started learning how to cook properly
  • Watched too much Netflix
  • Got a PC and started playing PC games
  • Got back to work and started to try and figure things out by going through it
  • Got back to a meditation practice
  • Learned to put the social back in social media but not ready to put social into social life
  • Wrote more words than I’ve written in the last 1 year
  • Walked hundreds of kilometers
  • Considered and embraced the possibility that there are new adventures to be lived
  • Decided to sell the house and start afresh elsewhere
  • Start designing my new house
  • Re-learn how to smile & laugh & enjoy things
  • Tried to bake bread
  • Adopted a cat

Clearly a lot has happened in that 100 days. A period where Grief and Happiness have been slowly converging to become a completely new set of feelings that I am constantly learning how to be comfortable with. Behind all of this is the promise I made to Mizah towards the end of her life. She was always worried about what my life would look like in the future and she made me give her my word that I will take care of myself and figure out how to move on. That is the nudge behind all the things I am doing, and the rest is just pure momentum.

It has been 101 days since Mizah said her last words to me. Deep in the middle of the night, after I had cleaned and carried her to the bed, she muttered weakly to me, “Thank You Sayang”. I replied with a whisper to her ear, “I love you, now go get some rest.” I didn’t know then that it would be the last words we would say to each other. I hope she knows that the pleasure, honour, and privilege of the life we had together was all mine. All 7 glorious years of married life and the couple before that when she became part of my life.

7 years later, 100 days later, and many more to come. She is and will always be loved.

Small projects for big impact

Think about urban revitalisation in Singapore and large-scale, government-led initiatives come to mind.

Since the island’s independence, public agencies have led the city’s urban revitalisation projects which includes the monumental multi-agency clean-up of the then-polluted Singapore River in the 1970s and the Housing & Development Board’s Remaking our Heartland programme to renew housing estates in 2007. These government-driven programmes often aim for large-scale physical change, are capital intensive, and require a long timeline to unfold, thus necessitating masterplans that are usually crafted by a select group of politicians, policymakers, planners, investors and other major stakeholders of the urban area in question. Although led by experts in their respective fields, this approach is inherently exclusive as it places the power and responsibility over the urban area in the hands of a few individuals. Also, like many grand projects, it is an approach that can be susceptible to a single point of failure if redundancies and room for evolution is not built into the plan.

Over the past years, I have grown inclined to another line of thinking, one that approaches urban revitalisation as a series of smaller projects focusing on placemaking — an organic, people-centred approach of developing the character and quality of a place. Guided by a general trajectory, each development acts as an experiment to better define the next move, each intervention calibrated for maximum impact at minimum risk, and each initiative created in collaboration with the community to become a vehicle that catalyses further action.

The limited size and impact of these small-scale projects may seem counter-intuitive, but this limited scope is valuable in offering low-risk opportunities to prototype ideas that may hold the key to revitalising spaces at scale. This is not a new idea and is in fact the foundation of the Tactical Urbanism movement founded by Street Plans Collaborative who have been bringing large scale urban improvements beginning with one small project at a time.

Applying this approach to a tropical Asian metropolis like Singapore, my placemaking studio, Shophouse & Co, carried out tactical interventions at Telok Ayer Park on one lunchtime in January 2017 to test ways that parks in the CBD can be made more inviting during lunch hours. Ideas such as a mobile bicycle pit-stop for delivery cyclists, portable tables to be used at lunchtime, and many other interventions were tested by the community, who provided real-use feedback. Through these small-scale urban experiments, we were able to gather valuable user insights that could then inform resource-intensive infrastructural improvements in the future.

Beyond risk-management, small interventions also offer the potential for revitalisation efforts to become more inclusive by enabling collaboration amongst stakeholders of all sizes. As the saying goes, “You can’t become what you can’t see”, and the relatively small scale of the project enables individuals, groups and companies to visualise themselves making a tangible difference to the project. By being able to project themselves as part of the revitalisation process, the community feels emboldened and empowered to contribute assets, resources and insights — strengthening their sense of belonging to both the process and its outcomes. As a result, not only would the hardware of the neighbourhood be revitalised, its heartware also gets a boost.

This spirit of commnuity involvement was inherent in the process when Shophouse & Co took over a commercial unit in transition at King George’s Avenue in 2013 to prototype new ideas to revitalise the space. As we shared our vision for it to become a hybrid retail-workshop-communal space, various entrepreneurs, artists and creatives came forward to offer their support. We received sponsorship of hardware improvements such as fans, artificial turf and even a kitchen carpentry unit, while creative practitioners conducted programmes such as silkscreen printing workshops and even pizza-making session to activate the space across eight weeks. This collective approach empowered the community to take ownership of the intervention and instilled a sense of pride in the project. One of the partners eventually ended up taking a long-term lease to the unit, continuing the revitalisation process with a new concept featuring a bar, restaurant and creative workspace.

What is perhaps most potent about a small-scale intervention in the grand scheme of things is its ability to catalyse other projects for sustainable urban revitalisation. Like a spark that catalyses a movement, small projects offer tangible evidence to the community that positive urban change is achieveable. Granted, some of these ‘catalytic projects’ may end up as nothing more than a fizzle, but those that register as ‘quick wins’ can start to trigger a reaction. Stakeholders begin to believe in the revitalisation process, and a groundswell start to form to become a sustainable force of change. One famous example is the pedestrianisation of Times Square in New York. After its initial six-month pilot programme in 2009, the DOT reported reduction in pedestrian injuries, booming business for merchants, reduced travel time for cars, and an improvement in public perception of the area; and this visible impact was key in overcoming the stakeholders’ initial scepticism to garner enough support for the city to make the transformation permanent in 2010.

E.F. Schumacher was referring to economics when he wrote Small is Beautiful, but maybe we should look at small-scale urban interventions the same way too. Urban revitalisation schemes don’t need to take the form of mega projects but can manifest as intentionally smaller projects that are nuanced and calibrated to the context. As a more responsive and inclusive process, it offers a stronger and more sustainable impact in rejuvenating urban areas, but this can only happen if we start to look beyond committees and into the power of the community in improving our city.

The original version of this article was first published in Issue 12 of Urban Solutions, a biannual magazine published by Centre for Liveable Cities. This version has been edited to better articulate key ideas related to the theme.

The Silent Unplugging

It was sometime in late October when the urge for a retreat started to arise. Perhaps it was the overwhelming year that has passed and a certain anxiousness of what may lay ahead, perhaps it was the cumulative tiredness of running my own company for 4 years, it could also have been the realisation that it has been a full decade since I’ve graduated from university, or maybe, it was about turning 35-year old which inexplicably felt significant. Heading for a silent retreat had been on my mind for a while but has always been a ‘someday’ kind of activity, but at that moment, it felt like a thing that I must do.

Continue reading “The Silent Unplugging”

The poetic beauty in loss

Sometimes, when I look at the city that is evolving before my eyes, I am reminded of the Japanese phrase ‘mono no aware’. Its exact definition eludes me, but so are many profoundly amazing things around the world that defies my limited vocabulary. My unrefined understanding of the phrase defines it as the tender melancholy that surrounds the deep appreciation of a transient beauty and its inevitable passing — after all, nothing ever really lasts. However, an article by the Suntory Museum of Art in Japan offers an alternative: “Use of the Chinese character for ‘sad’ to render the Japanese word aware associates mono no aware with sad or fleeting experiences. That nuance is however not intrinsic to the phrase, whose essence is the experience of being deeply moved by emotions that may include joy and love, as well sadness.”

Either way, a heaviness hangs in my heart as I watch the city change. I recognise its impermanent nature and its perpetual incompleteness, but I struggle to cope with the pace that it is happening. A little bit of my heart cracks with the shattering concrete of a building that has reached its time, and yet I stubbornly search for meaning in between the cracks.

As the surrounding earth gets excavated for new infrastructure, and new neighbours move in, the buildings that still stand know that it is a matter of time. Being able to witness the passing of history all these years has been a privilege and this is inevitable. They are just biding their time; all of us are.

Just like the phrase ‘mono no aware’, it is in this relentless change that a curious appreciation of the city arises. In the midst of not knowing what to make of what’s left of the city we once knew, every pause in the city becomes more valuable, and every moment savoured deeper. We try to prolong the existence of the spaces and buildings in our memory through words and images. We create archives of stories that we may one day retell ourselves and our children. We construct meaning out of all this meaninglessness.

It is in that moment, even for us whose relationship with the building is from a distance, are deeply moved by its inevitable passing. If nostalgia is a dirty word, we allow ourselves to be the most vulgar of beings. If sadness is a gloomy thunderstorm, we gladly get drenched in the rain. If love is a thorny rose, we allow ourselves to bleed in order to enjoy its beauty. In the moment that we do not recognise our own city, we are once again in touch with our human emotions.

The city is constantly changing. The buildings that mean so much to many will cease to exist. But if we can bring ourselves to embrace its transient nature, we may just end up not mourning its passing, but rejoicing in its once glorious life. In the face of constant change, it is human to wish we have more time to connect to the built environment around us. But perhaps we can seek the poetic beauty in all this, for it is the absence of connectedness that has brought us all here.

First published in April 2016 for the publication, VIRUS by Fable – For the full tactile print experience featuring the photographs and other essay contributions, get the publication at the VIRUS website or at BooksActually. —

Heart to Hard

During my formal education in architecture school, I was taught to learn how to read and manipulate the formal design languages of geometry and tectonics. In the academic studio, we spoke about materiality and ephemerality, skin and structure, and was told to ground it in history, theory and context. We were assessed on spatial quality and aesthetics and told that these qualities separated a building from a piece of architecture.

On most occasions, we were expected to answer the brief and on others, challenge it, and we did. My classmates and I imagined great plazas with impromptu urban life, streets filled with spillover activities, artworks to be discovered at backlanes, and rooftop film screenings. But we would soon discover that not many of these would materialize.

Instead, there were unused pockets of beautiful spaces, human-less lushly landscaped parks and vast roof surfaces as carparks. The renderings with vibrant activities manifested as empty beautiful spaces.

While many identified creative programming to be key, a lack of contextual relevance of what was proposed and resources to execute the good ones, has often led it to remain as latent spatial potential and many, including myself, have been looking for ways to harness this.

Today, we see acts of urban activation attempting to get closer towards fulfilling the potential of our built spaces. For example, the Experience Market during Archifest 2013 (which I was directing) is an attempt to turn an uncharacteristic and lifeless gravel area at Dhoby Ghaut Green into a vibrant marketplace under the canopy. Elsewhere, in the backlanes of Bangsar and Petaling Jaya in Malaysia, community gardens and resident-led parties by the likes of renowned landscape architect Ng Sek San and architect Ms Foo Hui Ping, attempts to bring relevance into these often forgotten but highly intimate spaces. Some ground-up and some empowered by intelligent organizations, projects like these are what reinforce my belief that photogenic spaces is only half the answer to creating a successful piece of architecture or urban space and it is the ability of people to use it meaningfully that makes a difference.

Space on its own, no matter how well made, will always be lifeless until we, the urban citizens, bring our own into it. In a way, the heartbeat of our places is actually ours. When we live our richly complex lives in these spaces, are empowered to participate in it and encouraged to take ownership of it, we tap into this latent spatial potential to make something magical happen- turning a mere space into our own place.

Call it placemaking or urban activation, they point to the same thing- allowing the space to fulfill its potential by imbuing the hardware with some heartware, and perhaps it is time we reconsider our definition of what makes a successful piece of architecture. As Lao Tzu was quoted as saying in The Book of Tea, “The reality of a room, for instance, was to be found in the vacant space enclosed by the roof and the walls, not in the roof and walls themselves. The usefulness of a water pitcher dwelt in the emptiness where water might be put, not in the form of the pitcher or the material of which it was made.”

— First published in CUBES Magazine (Singapore), April/May 2014 | Cover photo: Experience Market at Dhoby Ghaut Green, Singapore. Archifest 2013. Photo by Shophouse & Co — 

Ending, Beginning, Outside, Inside.

Endings & Beginnings.

Hello you, it has been a full two years since I signed up for a mailchimp account and sent out my first newsletter titled ‘Prologue’. It was a way to get back to writing thanks to the urge of my favourite human, and aptly, I launched it on her birthday. Today would have been her 34th, but 33rd was to be her last, and so this edition of the newsletter must carry the weight of an ending and a beginning at the same time.

I’ve only had the strength to write eleven newsletters over that two years, and my words over that period barely concealed the tragedies I was living in then. I am aware that there has been a lot of sad in my words over the last few months. I also recognise that reading my dealing with the fragility of humanity may be too much for some. So if you feel like this newsletter is no longer for you, I understand.

While I konmari-ed through the cloud of grief, I am now trying to Kintsugi my way to a new chapter. Just like the Japanese art of pottery repair by using gold, I am also picking up the pieces, trying to piece it together, and embracing the broken-ness of it all. My long walks is giving me some space to think, and some momentum to move forward. The warmth of family & friends have kept my faith & connection to humanity. The guidance from my therapist is giving me some light and courage on the hazy path. I am still at the beginning of my ‘recovery’ but my faith keeps me believing that there is a kind of good that will come out of all this at the end.

Outside & inside.

In my last email to you, I mentioned that I will be pondering about the future of this newsletter. I reviewed it from all angles and kept myself open to a complete overhaul, eventually leading me to these:

 1. My newsletters have always been in longform writing. I enjoy writing in this manner and I feel like it keeps things personal, honest, and human. This is the kind of email/letter that I would like to receive and with that, I plan to keep it this way. Its flexibility also leaves the door open for the occasional ‘segments’ that I may indulge on a whim.

So all this reading that you have to do? It’s here to stay. Future versions of this newsletter will retain this flowy texty character, which I think some of you do enjoy.

 2. I also reflected on the books, articles, and podcasts that I devour every day in an attempt to sieve out recurring topics across them. I wanted to see if there was a big arc that tied it all together. I was searching for something that could be compressed into a one-liner for a bio. Something that I can use to explain to others what I write about.

I listed the topics: love, faith, community, authenticity, mindfulness, technology, creativity, literature, cities, environment, design, politics, ethics, economics. There were too many. But vaguely, it seemed to gravitate nebulously towards two cores: Human & Urban. 

As I thought deeper about it, I saw how these two ideas – on its own, at its intersections, and its fringes – have always been the underlying themes of my work and my life. As an urbanist, I think a lot about making it more human, and having us humans at the centre of the process. As a human, I ponder on what being & living in our modern cities should and could be. To reference Pico Iyer, one could say that I am always shuttling between my human innerworld and my urban outerworld. It is from this in-between space that my words seem to emerge.

 3) The direction for my blog and newsletter has been gently swaying in the wind over the last two years. In #000, I wrote that “there is no plan” for this newsletter. After bumbling through a few hundred words over a few editions, I added a section in #006 called Fascinations which are “short writeups surrounding recent explorations and discovery around topics of interest”. Then in #009, I wrote of my hope for the blog to be “my little place on the internet that will serve as a public record of my learning, un-learning, and re-learning” and for the newsletter to be a compliment to it. Of course all that got a jolt in May 2020 when a hard reset happened to my life, the blog and newsletter. It left things up in the air and begs the question: Where will Adib go from here?

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I have arrived at the conclusion that forward for my blog and newsletter will look like a one-man labour of love exploring questions about our shared humanity & urbanity. It’s always been there but it is for once, packed into a compact blurb.

This newsletter will continue to be called “Dispatches” and will be sent out monthly on the last Tuesday of every month. It will continue to be longform writing and feature behind-the-scenes thought processes bouncing in my head (like what you’ve just read), links to essays or blog posts that I’ve written lately, offer glimpses into personal projects (and in some way my life), and other miscellanies – all of it related to the my inquiry of being human and living in a built environment.

Perhaps all this may seem like a convoluted way of saying that little is changing except a little more focus and refinement to it all. It probably is, but in a time where nothing appears certain, I felt that I needed to do this and hopefully, give you a clearer reason to read my words. There’s just too much of life to live in this short time we all have, and I plan to respect the time and attention that you’ve afforded me.

So let’s start again from the beginning:

Hi, I’m Adib Jalal. This is “Dispatches”, my monthly longform newsletter about our shared humanity and life in cities. It is sent on the last Tuesday of every month.

The importance of cake

Back in 2011/2012, I was living in a small single-storey black-and-white house in Changi Village. I was then dating a young lady named Mizah and I knew of a small corner shop in the neighbourhood that sells good-looking and delicious chocolate cakes. I bought the cake to celebrate special occasions with her. Little did I know that both the girl and the cake would be so important in my life.

We loved the cake a lot and it became our shared indulgence. We bought the same cake for each one of our birthday. It became our thing.

Today would have been her 34th, but 33rd was her last. She lived all of it fully with joy & love, and I’m glad that she managed to enjoy her last one with the people who mattered most to her.

I cannot share this cake with her anymore but I bought it anyway and shared it with the P!D team. Though we cannot celebrate this with her, we will always celebrate everything about her. We ate cake and smiled because that’s how it has always been with her. That’s how we remember the Mizah that we all love.

I supposes the whole point of this is: a cake is not just a cake. It is an opportunity to make memories. So always eat cake with your loved ones.

Walking, thinking

“Now shall I walk or shall I ride?

‘Ride,’ Pleasure said;

‘Walk,’ Joy replied.”

― W.H. Davies

I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately. Long walks, alone.

Instead of trails across lakes and mountains, I settle for pavements.

One foot in front of another, along park connectors and water collectors, because that is all I have for now.


I see couples & families strolling & cycling;

men & women checking their Apple Watches while jogging past me who is just glad to be walking.

It’s not the kilometers that I am clocking but I’m just walking so that I am moving

and right now I’m thinking that there is a metaphor in here, waiting.


This walking is my way of figuring out things.

A conversation with myself on being. In some ways, an act of becoming.

It is me, committing to asking myself answer-less questions of person, profession, and passion,

and lately, of legacy and me.


And so I walk without destination to channel the laws of Newton and put some momentum in a certain direction.

I take these repetitive meditative steps to settle the mind and remind myself that life has a way of working out fine.


In a way, with each step I complete I plant a seed for a tomorrow where perhaps this sorrow can grow to something else.

Maybe a kind of morning where there is less mourning.

Maybe a kind of loving of this life that we’re living.

Maybe if I keep walking, keep moving,

and maybe if I do it enough,

I will see a clearing with a path.

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere.”

– Jack Kerouac

A listening, watching, & reading list for the Cancer journey

The journey that Mizah and I went through – Mizah as a cancer fighter, and myself as a caregiver – was helped along by not just families, friends, and medical professionals. We also leaned on the generous sharing of experiences by others who have gone through this arduous journey to get us through it. Their stories gave us guidance through the mental and emotional battles that accompanied the physical challenges, and listening to them offered us hope, strength, comfort, and wisdom. It also reminded us that although many do not understand what we have to go through, there are many others who do.

This list is for you and your loved ones. I tend to consume media across disciplines, perspectives, and faiths so that I can form my own position and approach to things. Your mileage from these might differ but I do hope it helps you in some way.

:: If you have other resources to add to this list, please send me a DM (@adibjalal) on IG, Twitter or email ~


Terrible, Thanks for Asking (TTFA) – The conversations about grief here are real.”Sometimes sad, sometimes funny, and sometimes both”. Created & hosted by Nora Borealis who lost her husband to cancer.
Talking Cancer by Macmillan Cancer Support (UK)- Conversations with other fighters, caregivers, and medical professionals covering the entire gamut of human experiences.
Chris Wark was diagnosed with cancer and opted out of chemotherapy to choose a more natural based approach to healing. The podcast also features others who share the same idea
Fearne Cotton speaks to amazing people about life, love, loss, and mental health issues. As a caregiver who is dealing with his own depression, I resonate a lot with the stories and experiences in this show.
Aida Azlin is all about inspiration, empowerment, faith. Listening to her is a balm to the heart.
On Being is the award winning show at the intersection of “spiritual inquiry, science, social healing, community, poetry, and the arts”. Philosophical and poetic.
Tara Brach is a psychologist and a meditation teacher who speaks about compassion and acceptance. She draws on some Buddhist practices and some podcast episodes are guided meditation sessions.


Heal – A Documentary

TED talk video by cancer survivor, Suleika Jaouad

TED talk by creator of Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast, Nora McIrney


The Art of Letting God by Mizi Wahid

Call Upon Him by Mizi Wahid

Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life by Eugene O’ Kelley

That Good Night – Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour by Sunita Puri

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

Radical Remission by Kelly A. Turner, PhD

A Year to Live – How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last by Stephen Levine

Radical Compassion by Tara Brach