One of my favorite quotes and concepts from Best Selling New York Times Author Geneen Roth ( is:

Never underestimate the inclination to bolt.”

I was reminded of this phrase when I awoke this morning at 3:30am with an inability to feel restful with my situation. My situation being: Our feeding-tube dependent, 70lb, 25-year-old son and his needs which dominate the rhythm and the cadence of our home. The inclination to bolt feels like wanting to be anywhere but here.

If you have raised children or have young ones at home, you may be able to relate. When toddlers are not yet self-sufficient, we as parents know their needs must be met before we focus on addressing our own. Their basic activities of daily living require support, energy, supervision, teaching and encouragement.

Young children need us to be patient. They need us to keep open minds and repeat things as many times as our toddlers need us to, for their learning and independence to develop. It’s part of the deal. And we might be surprised at just how involved parenting can be. But we know at some point, our children will leave the nest. Usually.

Our son Zach is not a toddler. He is a grown man at 25 and never leaving the nest. And while we recognize that he is specially gifted (and not “disabled” as some parts of our culture would suggest) it doesn’t mean that his gifts are simple. The insights and intuition we see Zach demonstrate don’t just inspire the awe that naturally arises. His gifts are complicated, sometimes hard to handle, and confounding. They can also be downright dangerous.

So, when I woke up at 3:30am wanting to be somewhere, or someone else I wasn’t in completely unfamiliar territory. Two and a half decades of having Zach as our living Blessing have trained us well. And with that training has come the emergence of skills to better manage our uncommon situation with our dependent adult son.

But some days are better than others. And yesterday was one of those days when I could not see myself, or Zach, through the torment that left us unsafe, bereft, and desperate.

I love my son. I am my son. I care for him the way I care for myself. There is no greater humility in humanity than to take responsibility for another, who cannot be responsible for his own well being. I humbly rise to that charge from the Universe and will continue to do so. And without going into the heinous details that governed our afternoon yesterday, I will let your imagination create the frustration that comes with all hell breaking loose. Perhaps this has happened to you at some time, also?

Let’s talk instead about this inclination to bolt. Because as I lay motionless in silence for over an hour before Zach wandered in to start our day at 4:30am that was all I could really think about. I wanted out. I wanted the fucking chaos to end. I am not 20. I am 54. I am tired and out of tricks to make days like yesterday ok.

When I feel powerless, I want to run. And there are a lot of ways to run. Here is a novel one that Geneen Roth shared:

In Geneen’s description of how extreme our need to check out can become, she shared that one of her conference attendees literally walked out during a session. They were at a “Women, Food & God” retreat hosted by Geneen when the participant made a literal run for it. She told Geneen she was hiring a helicopter to come and pick her up and rescue her. The vulnerability of internal exploration was too much to bear. Things had gotten so painfully real so fast that this was her extreme effort to doge it all.

I don’t have a helicopter, and the truth is I live in a majestic country environment where I mostly feel completely peaceful. So the option of physically bolting doesn’t usually cross my radar.

But try telling that to my brain when my blood is boiling. My brain knows that there are other ways to live than dodging flying shoes while driving (among other dangerous behaviors) so it can be challenging not to want to bolt. My brain screams: “How did we get here AGAIN!?!” And “How do I make it STOP!?!”

Sadly, I don’t have an answer. I wish I did. I wish that those of you who are reading this and relating to the desperation of feeling out of control and unsafe could receive a “take away” suggestion so that next time YOU want to bolt, you have something to draw on.

But the fact is that there is no strategy when we want to bolt. When life is out of control, through our circumstance, environment, health crisis or mental anguish there is no fix. There is only now. There is only breathing. There is only gratitude for something simple, like the cool air of my overhead fan circulating the thick, regretful air that was lingering from yesterday’s painful events.

Finding a way to hack to our mental refrains, whatever they may be, is the only way to restoration. Our machinated monologue of self-talk that starts running when we want to bolt may sound something like what I found myself saying at 3:30am:

“This still sucks, it will always suck, no matter what I do we always end up here, it must be my fault, I must not be capable, I have no say over my own life, I can’t do this anymore, make it stop…”

Growing through these challenges means we need to get really good at throwing a wrench in these types of automated mental responses to our circumstances. Because they do not serve us. They don’t help anything. They lie to us, as if bolting is actually an option. We can and must find a way to stop the chorus of familiar reasons why we cannot go on for one more second. If we can fend them off long enough, we can start asking powerful questions like:

  • What is the actual problem, right now?
  • What is the crisis, in this moment?
  • What don’t I have that I need currently?
  • Are my conclusions about these events true?

These can bring us back to the present. Which is critical. Because when we stop remembering and reliving how terrible the “thing” was that happened, we usually see that, there is no longer a problem, crisis, or unmet need that exists right NOW. And as much as we may have a trauma hangover from what happened five minutes, five days or five years ago, we generally don’t sustain those experiences. It is just that, we won’t let them fall away once they have ended.

For me yesterday, and for Zach, the best hack for that internal self talk (and my inclination to bolt) was simply going to bed. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t even dinner time yet. We needed to let the storm be over and let the dust settle. Because when all else fails, we just need to make it stop if we can. It’s ok to want to run, but we know from a million other times, that wherever we run to, we will necessarily still be there also. As will our unresolved inclinations to bolt.

Don’t resist your inclination to bolt when it arises. Try to respond differently. Throw a hack at it. Instead of looking for the nearest exit (food, TV, booze, drama, anything that takes you out of yourself) see if you can experience the need to run as an invitation to pay greater attention. Not greater attention to the event that made you want to bolt, but attention to what is happening NOW.

Questions like these can help us shift our focus from looking for the emergency exit, to understanding that the storm is actually over, at least for now. Instead of responding with the same self-talk that makes us feel worse, and is trapped in the past, try asking things like:

  • Am I safe now?
  • What do I need right in this moment?
  • Who can I talk to about this?
  • Are there others who might understand?

The faster we can drop one theme of our thinking and adopt a different one that is based in the current moment instead of the past, the sooner the whole thing can take its place in history and we can move onto something else.

Repeat often.





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