Using Loneliness to Your Advantage with Dr. Chip Dodd

July 7, 2024

If there’s one word to describe single parenting, I would say loneliness. We are reminded throughout the day in big and small ways that we don’t have a partner for companionship. Loneliness hits when we miss our kids if we’re co-parenting. And we’re always keenly aware there’s not someone to share the responsibilities, the experiences, decision making and the mental load with, and certainly no one to laugh with or cry with after the kids go to bed. So how can we actually use that loneliness to our advantage? 

And I’m really excited about who we have here to talk about it with me too, because there’s no one better to talk about loneliness, one of our eight core feelings. Dr. Chip Dodd is an author of one of our favorite books, The Voice of the Heart. He’s a speaker and a counselor. He holds a PhD in counseling and he and his book are a cornerstone resource to us here at Solo. Thank

I’m going to start with a quote from Voice of the Heart. If you haven’t read the book, please go get it. It is a game changer for everything. So here’s what it says: “In a world that screams negativity about dependency and glorifies self-sufficiency, loneliness is the feeling that we work hardest to avoid. The irony is that the more we work to avoid it, the more it occurs. And the more we work to hide it, the more we miss out on life.”

It doesn’t matter who you are or how big the crowd is, we’ve all felt lonely. Doesn’t matter how old, what your life situation is, it’s a thing. But I can definitely say that there has been a time in my life where I didn’t quite have words for loneliness. I didn’t know that loneliness was what I was feeling and how normal it is.

Can you give us some words for loneliness? How would you define it?

For a lot of people, the words that take the place of actually naming it a lot of times are restless, discomfited, not comfortable looking for something—kind of like, it makes me want to move, but I don’t know where to go. Distraction is the way to address it: Well, I’ll just do this now. Just keep busy to avoid it. But loneliness is really a gift. In its origin, it’s a painful gift because it’s a spur. It’s there to get me to actually move. And loneliness is a feeling that actually says everything that’s true and right about us, R-I-G-H-T. This is a right feeling to have because it’s a feeling that tells us we’re made to find fulfillment in relationship. I mean, it’s a relationship-oriented spur, a catalyst, a feeling that moves us towards something and towards ourselves to spend time in solitude.

Solitude always leads to prayer. Prayer always leads to God or just voicing out to the universe, What am I doing here? There’s sort of a list of people that address certain levels of loneliness: the best friend, the spouse, the compatriot, the Solo Parent groups, which are just fabulous because people walk out of those “known” and, we call it. more understood, but it’s really not understood; it’s actually “known.” I’ve spoken about what’s happening in me and it wasn’t rejected. It was received and related to. That’s not understanding, that’s being known. The purpose of loneliness is to make us known to ourselves, to others, to God and the list of others. 

Why do we feel so ashamed? What is it in us that sometimes we don’t want to admit that we feel lonely? Why is that?

I think the shame is toxic shame. There’s something wrong with me for being like this. It exposes our neediness. And it’s made to deliver us to loneliness, to bring us to experiencing friendship: “into me see” is “intimacy.” Neuroscience is late to the party. And everybody’s listening to it because it’s neuroscience. But neuroscience is saying what The Voice of the Heart was saying, and ancient literature has been saying forever: Neuroscience says you come out of the womb looking for you. And we humans find fulfillment through connection.

And it’s the inside of us connecting to other people’s insides that makes us known. We’re cared for, we’re trusted, we belong, we matter by being: “into me see and into you see.” Neuroscience is catching up with the recognition that human beings find fulfillment through relationship, and that my heart and my mind connected to me are connected to you, connected to God. And even the God part—God’s a concept that we feel, unless God is a relationship that we actually experience, even though it’s invisible. It’s a felt experience that we can’t help but say “I witness it.”  

We don’t want to feel needy. We see that as a major flaw. And that’s from upbringing. A lot of people will say, “Hey, I’m just bored or I was just bored.” And “bored” is a word, an impaired expression, of not knowing how to name loneliness. So if you’re growing up as a child and the child says, “I’m just bored.” “Well, if you’re bored, I can give you something to do. I can give you a chore. I can give you a problem, I can give you something to do.” And actually that child is saying, “I’m lonely for something and I’m not sure what it is. Will you help me? Can you relate to me?” And then if you’re stuck in that boredom with the child, and the parent doesn’t know how to address loneliness, they will get bored with the child and all of a sudden they’re restless, irritable, and discontent. So we create intensity to take the place of intimacy.

When do you feel the most lonely? 

I’ll go first. It pops up at the most random times. I don’t know that there’s really a pattern but I was running through my neighborhood recently, and I noticed that I was running down this greenway path that backs up to other people’s backyards, and I saw a little family—the husband and wife were sitting on their outdoor sofa. The kids were over playing with their outdoor play stuff and the parents were just sitting there talking with each other. It’s probably five o’clock in the afternoon. They had finished up the work day. They’re watching their kids hang out outside. There’s another house across the way. There’s a family inside. I can tell they’re rustling around. They’re cooking, they’re bringing stuff out to the grill, they’re doing their thing. There’s a couple other family things happening here and there. I ran past a couple running together. It’s times like that that I’m noticing what’s happening around me and noticing what’s missing in my life. Another time can be with Jax, and I just wish somebody could see how amazing this kid is, someone to share those moments with.

For me, it was definitely at night because there was enough happening during my days with having three girls on my own and just keeping up with everything. And I totally agree with your point. When something wonderful happens or something hard happens, there’s no one to share that with. But when everything quiets down, then I realize that I’m alone. If I’m busy, I don’t realize I’m alone as much. And that was always the hardest time for me. 

My aunt just recently lost her husband and she said it’s almost harder for her to go out and be around people because when she comes home, it makes the house that much more quiet and that much more alone. And I was proud of her for noticing that. But also like, man, I feel that. I remember when that was really hard to come home and just be alone because Jax was with his dad.

Feeling it is very vital. A lot of people could be hearing this and saying, “Well then avoid it if it’s that terrible, that painful, avoid it.” Even Aristotle said that a friend will double your joy and cut your sorrows in half. And so loneliness is there to take us to the right places. And we can benefit in the best ways to have the lives we were made to actually have. And if we don’t address it, it’s going to take us to places of avoidance, which is going to set us up and trap us in many, many ways. Loneliness is not a condition that just comes with being a solo parent or being in a marriage that’s not working. It’s the nature of being alive in this life and it is made to prompt us. I even remember coming home one day when I was getting into my own recovery. I’m married and I remember hearing a country song, I think it was maybe an old group like Diamond Rio or something about a father and a son. And I walked in the door coming home from working on a degree in counseling, and it just hit me. I remember looking at Sonya and I just burst out crying, a grown man and I put my head on the counter. We had this bar area, so it was kind of high. I put my head on the counter, I cried, and she goes, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” And I said, “I’ve done it all alone. I’ve done so much of my life alone, which means hiding the loneliness, thinking that I could do this enough or approve of that enough.” So many of us are living in loneliness unnecessarily because we don’t know what it is. We don’t know how to name it. And then once we name it, we’re scared of admitting it and saying, “This is where I am inside myself. Can you handle this right? Can you be with me in this? Can you relate to this?” I was of the belief that no one could relate. If I said it, I was going to be even more alone for having done it. And again, I want to just reemphasize the value and beauty of recovery groups. I’m telling you, the best launch I’ve ever had is when I split the one I had with someone who didn’t have one. In other words, it became a relational feast. And when people take the risk of  sharing with people who go, “I get this,” and they can tell stories related to it, something happens. Even neuroscientifically, people walk away from those experiences fuller. The loneliness is there, but you know where to go to the right places at the right time for the best benefits versus distracting from it which leads to regret.

When I realized I was on my own—the trauma point that happened that told me you’re on your own; you’ve got to figure this out yourself. And hat’s played out over and over and over throughout my life to get me to the point that I am today where I have people who want to know more about me, want to go deeper, and I’ve got this wall up. 

And I think that’s so important to know the difference between being alone and being on my own. If I respond to being on my own, which means “Whoa, I’m going to have to step out, reach out, take action to be met.” Being alone means not reaching out, though I’m going to have loneliness that pushes me to do it. But if you’re on your own, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. It means you’re in need of relational help assistance. And more than ever before, there are places to go where people are really doing it.

If we don’t understand and know how to deal with our loneliness and understand the gift of it, the advantage of it, then we contend to carry that loneliness into future relationships. And we just try to think, “Well, if I just get married, then having another person occupy the same space is going to quench all my loneliness.” And that’s not the truth. Sometimes you can feel more lonely. And so that’s why this is such an important conversation to deal with loneliness in a positive, healthy way and realize there is an advantage to it. Because if you don’t deal with this, then we have a tendency to just either numb or distract and that kind of thing. 

You said before that loneliness can be reinterpreted as a gift rather than a curse. How do we look at loneliness as a gift?

Yeah. Loneliness is saying that you’re made to be in relationship, and now it’s scary. And we have situations in our past. I remember a poem I read years ago said, “The loneliest place I’ve ever been is on 333 Elm Street with you in the next room.” Talk about a marriage that’s falling apart when you’re not here. I can make up stories when you are here. I have to face that this is a very, very lonely place, and I am alone with you, which means you’re not willing to take me being known and receive you being known to me. When two people are known to each other (“into me see”) and they can tolerate that with each other, there is a multiplication. There is synergy. That one plus one is four. We get more out of that risk taking, but the gift of loneliness starts with admission, surrendering, interfacing that I was made for relationship and then accepting that without relationship, I’m not going to have fulfillment. Sometimes it’s God, sometimes it’s me with me. Sometimes it’s me with you. But it’s essential to have to walk into the vulnerability to receive the gifts. And almost everybody associates vulnerability with the next disaster. So we have to take a risk of hoping again, in spite of past experiences. We need to choose people who actually share our vulnerability. But the gift of loneliness is that friendship, like I said earlier, doubles your joy and cuts your sorrows in half. And then also intimacy itself, like having the reassurance and the belonging and the mattering that “This is a place I go.” My needs are actually met, but no one person can meet all your needs. Therefore, we have to spread our loneliness around, not because it’s such a burden, but because there are different people for different things.

You go to an electrician to get your electricity. You go to a doctor to get your body taken care of. A quick story of loneliness and fear and avoidance and admission: It’s really in our lives, and almost all of us have been mocked for what I’m about to say. And that’s why it’s so hard to say. I went over to my dear friend’s house and we started meeting on his screen porch. We started talking as me and him, and then another guy, and then it became a group meeting. And there were times I would go over as soon as I could get there. We’d start at 6:30 and I would get there at 6. I walked up on the screen porch and he came out, “Hey, man.” I said, “Hey, I gotta ask you a question.”

And I was afraid to ask. I said, “Hey, man, when I come here, I want you to know I really want to be here because of what I walk away with. This is a place I can come and I can truly be myself, not have the answers, not be the guide, not be the mentor, which is all great. I’m not saying it’s not, but this is a regenerating place. I said, when I get here, you’re not looking at your wife and going, “Oh dude, he’s back again.” You promise me you’re not [thinking] “Oh, he’s like a mongrel. We fed him once. He keeps coming back,thinking we’re going to throw scraps. Stop feeding him.” So I’m just shaming [myself]. The shame is just powerful because I’m admitting my need. And I go, “I’m not that guy, am I? I need to know.” He goes, “What’s going on with you?” He said, “You’re my best friend.” And then he named three things, “Dude, do you not remember? This is where I was and you were in my life.” I’m like, “Well, yeah, but that doesn’t matter right now. I’m in shame. I’ve got to know.” He goes, “No, you’re not that guy. I love you.” And then I’m like, “okay, that’s enough.” And I said, “So-and-so’s that guy, right?” We started to die laughing. I got out of it. But I needed to know that he wasn’t carrying a secret that he secretly couldn’t stand me being around. That I was too much. I was too little. I was this or I was that. If our loneliness genuinely is going to be addressed, we have to have places to go, whether you’re married or solo or young or old, or your spouse has passed away, or you’re 10 years old. You have to have a place to ask that question. “I’m not that guy, am I? And I am received here. Right?” And it’s kind of interesting and beautiful that Jesus said, “I’m lowly and humble in heart.” That’s almost like saying, “I get what loneliness is. So you can bring all your troubles and difficulties here, and you will never be alone. I know I’m invisible now, but I just want you to know I will find a way to get something concrete to you 100%. But hang on to the invisible. 

When I’m faced with loneliness and with the fear of reaching out, of finding, pursuing the relationship, and I’ve got that fear that’s holding me back, how do I know it’s fear from my trauma and being afraid to experience intimacy and to be known versus “I’m having a gut check.” Maybe it’s a little wisdom because this person maybe isn’t someone to open up to. 

If loneliness isn’t spoken, then we never get our needs addressed. But we need to be able to speak that loneliness to [safe] people. As much as possible, we express our loneliness to people who are valuable to us, who matter to us, who are friends of us, who have shown themselves to be able to relate to us. In other words, that’s who we show it to because you’re telling your story and the feelings that go with it, hopefully with somebody who can tell their story and the feelings that go with it. So that’s one part. But that gut check, heart check, is if you’ve got fear of expressing your loneliness, it is because there’s a good reason. It’s not because something’s wrong with you, it’s because something did happen to you. Because if you’re four, you have no problem expressing your loneliness with anticipation that it will simply be addressed. You’re not afraid. You’re just simply open to relationship. So that’s how we know that that fear is learned and that fear is there to actually protect us. The problem is it overprotects us to the point where we can’t do vulnerability anymore. So if fear is overprotecting us, it means we foreclosed on being human. We’re running away from what we could have. But that gut check is often about the past repeating itself. The heart check is about needing to question what’s going on around me. And if this is a person who doesn’t do feelings, who tends to be somebody who you’ve seen judge and criticize people being needy, then you better listen to your fear and also relate to your gut.

But I believe in trusting the heart more than the gut. What’s amazing is that the gut carries our trauma. The heart carries our present experience. We need to listen to the gut, but it’s not the guiding force. We really need to pay attention to our hearts and the minds that can speak it. 

Can you give me a practical example of that, what that would look like? 

I was invited to come share about the heart, and I was talking about our treatment center, and this was at a presentation where I was given 15 minutes to give an opportunity to all of these recovering pharmacists. You know how prairie dogs that are scared of the hawk and will go underground? You’ve seen it: pop, pop, pop. And as I started to speak, I literally watched all these prairie dog heads stick their heads up going, “Oh, this is good.” So I was watching hearts rise. And I’m like, “Dude, these are my people.” I mean, it was just a limbic resonance. It was a heart connectivity. Their faces were showing that they wanted to see my face and hear what I had to say. As soon as it ended, it sat down. The guy that was running this conference stood up and mocked me, mocked them, then came back and mocked me again. Oh, it was shocking. I knew at that point, there’s a gut check like, “Wow, I didn’t see this guy coming.” Had I gut checked myself, I would’ve known to maybe tamper it back for my own safety. Fortunately, what I believed in mattered more than his bullying. But what happened was, when I sat down, I knew anything I said, anything I protested with, anything I tried to fight him on was going to be a loser’s game. So I simply left afterwards knowing that it was not a place I could deliver the material. But the saddest place in me was the recognition that he stole what these people had gained. He’d rather have power over them than for them to be released into their own liberation to be themselves. So when you’re around people who are bullies, mockers, cynical, sarcastic people, fixers, approval seekers, people who need to have control, your loneliness is simply a problem that arouses their fear. And if they don’t get you fixed, they’re not going to be okay. They can’t tolerate their own internal worlds. That’s why I really press in these recovery groups. It’s people who can all identify with being human and all the fixers and the bullies and the cynical and the sarcastic. They’re scared to death of being human and of loneliness and hurt. Those are the two feelings they’ll run from no matter what. They will steal, destroy, and kill, believe it or not, the spirit and the heart or another human being to avoid their own internal experience. 

I thought self-sufficiency was the cure to everything. Telling the story about going over to my friend’s house, I can already hear mostly men out there going, Dude, what’s wrong with that guy? Dude, he needs to get up. That guy needs to get a spine.” I mean, I’ve got all the story in me already that can shame me to not admit my needs. But lemme tell you, I walked off that porch stronger. My marriage deepened by me saying, “I’ve lived scared. I’ve lived lonely.” And I’m sitting here now and I’ve got no backup. And I know that if we don’t get it and we don’t become ourselves, we’re doing damage to the people around us, the children that we’re raising, and the people and partners that we’re made to be with. We’re not meeting the world’s needs, and therefore, we’re isolating people from the help they can get.

And we live in such a culture that demands that we become self-sufficient, and we don’t need anything. And I think also going through divorce specifically, I heard so many people go, “You’re so much better without her,” people that really knew me, and there was a level of truth to that, but I felt like in some ways that it wasn’t super helpful because I still feel there’s a serious loss, even though some things might be better, I need to step into this loneliness and this deficiency that I see. I need to be okay with the deficiency. Dreams get shattered. And I don’t need anybody to say that I’m better off. My dream was shattered, whatever that dream is. I don’t know anybody that gets married with anticipation of hurrying up to get it over with. We picture it being something pretty darn wonderful.

Can you talk about apathy as it relates to loneliness? 

Loneliness is a feeling that really does say that we’re made just right. And it’s there to pull us in the relationship. But once we have given up on how we’re made, and we sort of have foreclosed on hope or longing for a life where we matter and belong, we have become cynical ourselves and we’ve kind of resigned ourselves to life: “Hey, don’t be a baby. Don’t let these things bother you.” See, loneliness has passion in it. It’s a hungry for relationship, a craving for fulfillment. And so hate and love aren’t opposites. They both have passions. They both have feelings in them. But impaired loneliness, foreclosure on how our hearts are made, pulls us towards a territory called “going past feelings.” The Greek word is apathy. Paul admonishes us in Ephesians 4:17-19 to give up heart. Like, “Don’t wind up in that place where you go past feeling, don’t lose your senses, because what weighs on you there is apathy.” And apathy means I don’t care. I remove myself from pain. And once you’re in apathy, you are being lured away into a place called isolation. And if the neuroscientists are correct, we’re literally created to look for who’s looking for us, we’re created to find fulfillment and connection. Relationship apathy is the most dangerous crooked path we can ever step onto because it’s going to lead us to an impassable place of an impossible situation that our only last hope in that isolation is going to be maybe a cry out that somebody hears. Because apathy is luring us farther and farther away into a place called “the real alone place.” So I mean, crying out is a blessing. I don’t want to get too big on this, but really, apathy is a dangerous territory because apathy and evil begin to relate to each other. And people who don’t “do feelings” get sick or people get sick of them. So the more we save ourselves through our self-sufficiency and our capacity to be the fixer or the cynic, the more we save ourselves some heart pain, and the farther we get from what we’re made to have. And so loneliness is the doorway into fulfillment, just the opposite of what we’ve been raised often to believe. Loneliness is the doorway into fulfillment and running from it is the doorway into isolation.

So can you give us some constructive ways to be lonely? How do we sit in it?

Elizabeth was saying she needs a peer to call during the summer to connect with when the children are in bed. Like, “Hey, just letting you know I’m out here.” And just have a little conversation, just kind of like a mentor’s touch, a little comment to say, “I’m going to bed now. Look forward to talking to you tomorrow.” Connection also in the mornings, I think it’s very important because ultimately, life is a God program. I mean, we are spiritual creatures who are hungry to be connected relationally to the universe. So in the mornings, we need to awaken and resolve that we’re going to live as relational creatures. So we start out by admitting to God our need for a relational God that we can bring our hearts to. So we start out admitting our hopes and dreams, our wishes, acknowledging it’s a world of laughter and a world of tears, a world of hope and a world of fears. So in other words, making ourselves known to God, to ourselves, and then also planning during that day to have connection of the heart with someone during that day. In other words, we have to initiate planning and we need more than one person because I am married, but Sonya’s not enough. I need men. I need to hang out. Sometimes I need some guys that talk about nothing. That’s a good resting point. But then I get very lonely with those guys who talk about nothing very fast. And I’m ready for like, “Dude, let’s talk about something that matters like life and what it’s like to live in it.” And also, I think journaling is very, very important. I think self-care. What I mean by self-care is not just more about me. It’s like knowing how much I matter. So I care for myself because I need to stay healthy so I can turn around and give myself to other people in need.

Because sometimes, not only am I the lonely one who can relate to others, but others are lonely who need to relate to me. So self-care is very important because people of the heart are people who do feelings in a truly genuine way. Man, they’re needed because we are them. Right? Our loss is their game. If we do recovery, our wounds become their healings, because out of our own healing, we can go, “I relate to your wounds.” 

How are loneliness, connection and trustworthiness related?

Loneliness takes us to looking for and being able to see somebody we can relate to. They get what it’s like to move around this world made for relationship. That’s connection. Trustworthiness is somebody’s dependability. See, trust is earned through people’s behavioral dependability, their consistent ability to tell the truth about what’s going on in their hearts and their behaviors. In other words, they’re congruent or they can be trusted and their word and their actions are pretty darn close together. And if they’re not, they say, “I’m sorry.” So trust is earned. Loneliness leads us to seeking connection. Connection puts us in a position of depending, and what I’m depending upon is my ability to trust you. And that’s going to be backed up by your consistency. And if I find out you’re not worthy of trust, then I confront it. And if that doesn’t change, then I need to have a longer list. I think it’s very important that we spread out our neediness. Even if you’re married, you spread out your neediness because no one person is God, and no one person is going to take the place of other people too.

Does the great Chip Dodd get lonely?

The great Chip Dodd suffers loneliness. And because the more I know about all of these things that frankly the increase of pain on one hand, but also the dealing with the grief of knowing I’m never going to be more than human. Sonya and I fight. We get in arguments, we get in disagreements, we come at things from different directions. But the resolve, which is a resolution to continue to stay in the process—is the hope, because you got two humans together. It’s sometimes hopeless, sometimes a struggle. And frankly, the less detached you can be, the more attachment is required. 

Where do you go when you feel lonely? What do you do? What’s your discipline?

Everything. I just named every single thing I named in terms of the morning, awakening, staying in connection with others, having men in my life, telling the truth to Sonya, and then making sure I do those things that address this craving for relationship. 

One of the things that Elizabeth and I have talked about is the more work you do, if you’re surrounded by people that aren’t doing the work to the level that you are doing it, the more isolated you can start feeling—the loneliness, you can feel it. I think it’s very similar to the spiritual disciplines of the further you get down the road of walking a faith journey, the more you realize, “Man, I’m so far from this.” Holiness on our own is impossible.

By us dealing with what we’re dealing with, we actually become more needed. And so we were and are the people we’re talking to. There’s no escape from having to do the work, but that work leads us to being available to people who want to do the work. And the work never ends, right? We never arrive, but we could be a sanctuary for people who have been introduced to what we wish we could have never experienced.

What are some ways that you’ve seen people with loneliness? If I’m listening to this and it’s like, “I don’t know if I’m lonely or not,” what are some common things? 

When you say coping, I hear “one is managing, enduring, and/or avoiding.” So the way our society is set up now, more than ever before, we have the technological capacity to keep moving and staying away from how we’re made more than ever. We are made to be in relationship. So anything we do to avoid having to feel is going to be coping, enduring, or running from. So either we take ownership of our loneliness and deal with it or own it or use it or benefit from it, or rest assured, your coping is running from the life you could have. Feelings are actually dominating you rather than you being removed from them. Distraction, busyness of filling up my calendar, work addiction, busy addiction, working out addiction, I mean everything to keep me from having to sit with myself, look in the mirror and go, “I am here.”

We literally are being seduced into increasing our loneliness because everything in the media is screaming how you’re missing life and therefore you’re left alone. And so we’re set up by everything that media is presenting to actually miss everything we could have that could be next door or is in us already, to be spoken outside of us. We need to be known from the inside out. So we need to be speaking what’s inside us, outside us, to the right people, and doing nothing to cope. Now, there are times you’ve just simply got to endure a hundred percent. But guys, when you’re enduring, you really are hoping. And if you’re hoping, believe it or not, you’re already praying. You’re wishing that something were different.

I believe there is a God that’s hearing whether you know God is there or not, bidden or unbidden, God is present. So if you’re hoping and just enduring, you’re praying—and something’s coming.

Listener Question
Being a single parent is a position I never thought I’d be in, and it’s so hard. I was wondering if you could talk about any positives or benefits of being solo. 

Actually, there are quite a few. As soon as I went through the divorce, I’m like, “I’m changing the house.” And so I literally took a big wall and I painted it black. I painted a ceiling red. I know, right? It’s pretty awful and I got made fun of—my daughters did make fun of me, but I think there was a little bit of that “stake in the ground” independence. If you are partnered with someone, for better or worse, especially if it’s a toxic relationship and that part dies or that part goes away, there’s some freedom that comes with that you haven’t known for a while. And whether it’s painting your wall black or whatever, or it means just taking up a hobby that your ex said was stupid. There is a freedom in regaining the ground that you had to share with someone before. I would say that’s a simple one. But the second is along the lines of everything that we’re talking about here. I honestly believe that one of the benefits of being solo is it’s a grand reset situation, because everything’s kind of been pulled out from underneath us, to take a look at everything in our lives. And Chip, you said to me once that what you loved about solo parenting is that there’s a group of people that are hungry and broken and available and wanting and acquainted with their deficiencies and their struggle that are hungry for answers. As opposed to someone that is coming into a situation where they think they have it all together and it’s just performance based. The beautiful benefit about being solo is the performance piece. If you let it, it will drop away and you’re able to go, “I’m ready to rebuild from a brand new place. I’m a different person because of being solo.” 

I hated it. I didn’t want it. I didn’t wish it, I don’t wish it on anybody, but there is a huge benefit to it. The other for me that I would add is that it has definitely made me a better parent. I’m able to show up for my son in ways that I don’t know I would’ve been able to otherwise. And I say that too, even looking at what my marriage was before my ex was so needy that I don’t know that I would’ve been able to fully show up for my son in the way that I would’ve liked to because I would’ve been torn between the two of them. And so there’s that. 

Obviously I didn’t go through the death of a spouse; I wish Marissa was here or Susan in our PALS group. My question to them would be, “Does it make you more present in the day-to-day?” Because in my mind, you almost have to be grateful in the day-to-day when you’re going through a pain that you can’t justify. Because even for me for divorce, even though it was painful, and I went through all the fear that came with it, all the shame, all the hurt, all the everything, sadness and all of that, it was still justified in a way because it was like, “I don’t need to be in that marriage.” You know what I mean? But when you get something ripped out from under you and you have no control over it and it’s gone and you don’t want it to be gone, how do you find the benefit of that? And so I guess I just want to say that I don’t have an answer for it. We haven’t walked that. And so I just want to recognize that there are some solos who are like, “Yeah, that’s not a thing. I didn’t want to lose my spouse to death.”

But I think once you get not past it, once you get further down the road, what you said, I think, is key. I think if you pay attention to it, it can force you to be more present in every area of your life. Parenting, friendships, you have to be deliberate. I think there’s a huge list of positives that can come out of a solo season. If you’re not running to pacify it, numb it, if you pay attention to it, it can be—it was the most transformational, important season of my life. I’m still being transformed as a result, I’m still a single parent.

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The Voice of the Heart