Single mom writes letter to self: 'You are enough, you're doing fine' | Inquirer Entertainment

Single mom writes letter to self: ‘You are enough, you’re doing fine’

/ 10:46 PM May 15, 2023

Arlene with her mom and son Zac.

An old pic of Arlene with her mom Cora and son Zac.

Dear Arlene,

You are enough. You are strong.


You are equipped.


At the same time, you are confused. You wish you can do more for Zac, your 16-year old special son who is dealing with autism.

You cry a lot, because the question lingers, “What will happen to your son when you grow old?” At 16, he is still totally dependent on you.


You may be entirely to blame for this. At this point, the mind wants you to switch on the panic button. This may send you into a downward spiral of agony, driven by guilt.

So you quickly wipe your tears. You put on your rubber shoes. You jog. “Run faster,” you tell yourself. Make it a sprint. Power up, like a roadrunner.

Think “Rocky Balboa,” the boxer in the film series starring Sylvester Stallone. You are him at the moment. In one of the Rocky movies, he did not win. He got badly beaten, but he stayed in the boxing ring until the 12th round.

You are sprinting at top speed. You run until you notice that you’re already alone. In the darkness of midnight, along a street beside a river in your village, it is quiet now. You can stop now. All is clear.

You have outrun the demons peddled by thoughts and emotions. They are old chips in the brain that you must separate from the divine you – the “I” in the I am.

You have overcome your trials. You have come so far! Send a “high five” into the air. Celebrate being who and what you are, Mama Arlene!

You can now hear “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme song of Rocky.

The tears have stopped. In the silence of a forlorn street, you have become a champ. No need for the drum and bugle to announce that — you feel it. You are certain.

Slow down and let your lungs catch your breath. It’s okay now, the worst is over.

Mommy Arlene, the creator of the universe has gifted Zac to you.

How have you honored your miracle?

Doctors diagnosed him with a condition called autism, but judging from how you have observed your son, he is innocent, sacred and pure. An authentic angel. If the creator would send an angel, these are the exact descriptions. If there is a god, that is the perfect gift he would hand over to a special person like you.

Nothing less.

Zac is perfect, conceived and living without sin.

Doctors diagnosed him with a condition called autism, but judging from how you have observed your son, he is innocent, sacred and pure. An authentic angel.

Mother’s Day has just passed. It is a commercial activity peddled by capitalists who want consumers to spend money on goods. For a minimalist like you, these events in the Gregorian calendar are just harbingers of sensory overload. There should not be any set dates when one wants to express love and receive it.

One need not wait December 25 to feel joy. Every situation can bring a smile, a laughter. Everyone can bring the gift of laughter. One can always lift each other up.

Mama Arlene, looking back on Mother’s Day, let us ask the inconvenient question: “What kind of a parent are you?”

Can you take that without being defensive? Let’s be vulnerable. Let us go through the grueling process. Why are there grill gates behind the doors of your home? Because you want to keep Zac and you from harm.

Zac, when annoyed, would poke your eyes. You are afraid you might go blind.

Before the pandemic, Zac was studying in a special school, while you worked in the parking lot online and at home. However, in the last two years, he grew taller — much taller than you. At more than 5’7″, he now towers over you, and certainly much stronger. You lost control of him physically. You are grateful that he transformed, bearing the physical might of Hercules. But at the same time, he was lifting furniture and appliances, hurling them. To him, this was a delightful game.

But to you, this meant expensive repairs in the house.

You lost control of his movements. You are grateful for his genes that he got from you, but you just could not control him physically anymore. You could not anymore assure his and your safety.

Izaac 'Zac' plays basketball in a special school in Marikina two years ago prior to the pandemic and before he grew taller than his mother Arlene.

Zac plays basketball in a special school in Marikina two years ago prior to the pandemic and before he grew taller than his mother Arlene.

You used to work as a news reporter for 15 years, then as executive producer for the country’s biggest media network. For over two decades, you worked in the field and then, in the newsroom. You had to stop working outside because Zac has autism. You decided to work from home.

You also went through an annulment.

You were bravely cruising through the struggles of being a solo parent, carrying all of the physical and financial responsibilities. At the same time, you were happily creating commissioned paintings. You were fulfilled oil painting, writing creatively, and editing.

Zac is non-verbal. And if he could only speak, he would ask why he was locked up for about two years.

Sometimes, a parent is at a loss with how she can deal with the new gift of physical development.

The maids left because they became wary of their safety. They got scared of Zac’s newfound strength. One little push and your son could unknowingly injure an ordinary person standing next to him. One form of play or a bump and he could unintentionally hurt people.

When sounds in the street are overwhelming, he tries to ask you to be rescued from that noisy space. He gets agitated and disoriented he’d run to you to ask for help, though he did not know he was hurting you. He would pinch your skin in that nanosecond that he was asking you to help him. His fingers could poke your eyes. So you wear goggles.

In the heat of the moment, he would push you and you would, sometimes, collapse on the ground. When consciousness comes back, you’d find yourself lying down on the street with Zac standing still, looking down, wondering what happened to you. You’d get up, thankful that no vehicle passed by as you were on the ground motionless.

One time, as you and Zac were walking home after an episode like this, he cried sorrowful tears. He was clearly telling you how sorry he was, that he was unable to stop himself from pushing you. He was feeling electrocuted, hence the urgency of the situation. He needed to tell you, through his actions, that sensory overload was tormenting his body. He cried because he was saying he did not mean to knock you down.

You comforted him as you whispered. “Just say sorry.”

He uttered “Sorry, Mama.”

You told him, “There is nothing you can do to make me not love you.”

You comforted him as you whispered. “Just say sorry.”

He uttered, “Sorry, Mama.”

You told him, “There is nothing you can do to make me not love you.”

You became scared that one day, you might not be able to bring Zac and you back in one piece, fearful that the two of you would meet an accident along the road because he was experiencing sensory overload, or that the sounds in the environment were too much for him. He’d ask you to rescue him and take him out of that space.

And you, wanting him and you to enjoy other people, would also doubt yourself why you even exposed your child to this unpredictable situation.

But Zac loved the outdoors, and so do you. You both loved walking, just as you loved jogging. So you kept putting yourself and him in… relative danger.

Every stroll outside could be action-packed. But you still pushed on. You were telling yourself you were managing calculated situations. It’s just that, when he goes into sensory overload, you only have a bit of a second to sense it. And then, he already suddenly hurts you, without him understanding it as a reflex.

Zac is an angel. A bubbly, sweet, loving, powerful angel. He just likes tossing pieces of furniture into the air…. with one hand! The Greek god Zeus would be proud. Your siblings made you see the comedic side of the chaos.

“Did Zac enjoy hurling the appliances? I hope he enjoyed the crashing sounds,” said your curious sister May in a video call from Geneva.

Sister Xienina from Makati would say, “Okay. I’ll order the next pieces online. No worries.”

Your brother Ishmael would say, “Zac is an Olympian! He is a natural weightlifter. He has rare super powers!”

Mother Cora would bring the medicine for your bruises.

Sister Leilani, a therapist in Toronto, would tell you how to heal yourself when you slip on the ground because Zac suddenly got annoyed and had pushed you on the ground on reflex.

Life is difficult, Arlene.

Be at peace with that.

And it is also so beautiful!

You have so many people around you who help you.

Arlene, your soul is full of both tears of joy and bitterness at Zac’s presence. You want to be with him, that is why you took on work from home. A week ago, you found a person who could set him free and act as his coach. You thought this is going to remove the guilt that for two years, you had put him in what looked like a “jail,” like some criminal.

You recall countless nights wondering how you could set him free, and still keep your eyesight intact. Maybe raising a gift from the creator is a lot more difficult than you thought. You thought one just had to raise the money to enroll the offspring in a university for the well-to-do.

It turns out, you had to take off from a highly prestigious job as a TV news executive producer in a 24-hour news channel.

Now, you are so fortunate. You have become a news editor of a much-revered online news website. During breaks, you quietly and calmly scrub the comfort room floor to keep the living spaces occupied by Zac clean at all times. He lives in the main bedroom, the sala and the dining area. You occupy a painting studio cum office. That was all you needed to live a simple and quiet life with your only son.

If Zac was in the league of Hollywood cartoon heroes like the Incredible Hulk, then you must also transform to become a super person. Anyone “super.” Supergirl? Wonder Woman? But you see, you have not really become one with divine powers. You have become a person worthy of being called the granddaughter of Amah Juanita, an illiterate from Amoy, China (now Xiamen — Ed.).

Amah did not complain. Your late grandmother was the real hero of all! She took care of her bedridden husband for 15 years and raised five siblings, all by herself. One of the children, Uncle Carlos, had Down Syndrome.

Oh, Carlos was the angel of the family. Always smiling, always cheerful. Carlos, or Cheah, would be surrounded by people performing the hustle and bustle of daily life. He would be so delighted by just the mere presence of them in his life.

Amah was grateful for her gift and her life situations. She lived a happy life!

You are supposedly more equipped than Amah academically because you studied in the so-called great university of the people.

Notwithstanding an egoic claim to being adequate, you are really… a work of art. Still in the painting stage. You currently hold the descriptions of being an oil painter and an editor in your curriculum vitae.

Now, off you go, Arlene. Right inside your home, be a mother. Do not dream of being a wonderful parent.

Just be … a good one. Every single day.

Jog if you must. Every night, at midnight. Or at any moment, when thoughts and emotions seem way too powerful to silence.



Like a roadrunner.

Feel the wind as you fly past the swaying trees.

Or imagine that you are Rocky Balboa.

The creator has given you an amazing opportunity; you’re doing fine.

Cherish Zac. Love him! Enjoy being free with him. You may never get this lucky again.


The one who loves you,

Arlene Lim

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Editor’s Note: Arlene Lim was a news reporter of RPN 9 and ABC 5, before accepting a post as executive producer for ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC). After leaving her lucrative job at ABS-CBN, she decided to work from home to take care of her son Zac, a special child. She has recently accepted the position of editor at


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TAGS: autism, Broadcast journalist, single mom

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