43. The Shell

43. The Shell

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

The Shell

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.

~Victor Hugo

It was a freak accident that caused something called a CSF leak in my brain. It was every bit as awful as it sounds. I had to shave part of my head for the surgeries. Surgeries plural. That’s right. That’s not a typo.

My long, painstakingly and expensively dyed locks were shorn. My body and mind went through extraordinary changes. My once budding filmmaking career was sidetracked while I struggled to walk and feed myself. The most mundane tasks caused tears and frustration.

During this time in and out of hospitals and through the surgeries I went from 5’8” and a 118-pound supermodel body to gaining over 50 pounds. I felt strange and awkward in my own body, like I didn’t fit in my skin. I hid. I was ashamed.

Somewhere along the way, during my darkest hours, my best friend fell in love with me. The shaved head, the weight gain, all that stuff was what made me vulnerable, he said. Before, I had been a fierce, career driven woman who didn’t give him a second look. Would never have given him a chance. And that fierce woman really looked like she needed to eat a sandwich. Or two. And she didn’t look particularly happy, he said.

After the accident he saw me in a different light. And apparently that curvy light suited me, and him. We fell head over heels in love, the whole nine yards. My best friend of nine years who had seen me at my best and brightest fell in love with me when I thought I wasn’t lovable anymore, when I felt like a failure.

I’m still 50 pounds heavier than I used to be. But I’m happily married to the man of my dreams. Most days. Some days he’s the man I want to kick in the shins. But either way, our marriage and our commitment to each other is unbreakable. He makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in every room.

And somewhere along the way I realized that I had forgiven my fatter self, forgiven her for becoming someone I thought was below average. I embraced her and changed the way I looked at her in the mirror. I felt beautiful inside and out. And no, it’s not a man loving me that changed it. It’s about me becoming a more human version of myself, a version that isn’t chasing a bizarre ideal.

It’s about me becoming a more human version of myself, a version that isn’t chasing a bizarre ideal.

And it’s about realizing that despite the size 0 jeans and the jet-setting across the world I had done before, I was miserable and alone. And I had been so afraid to fail that I had quit being a person.

I now understand why my husband didn’t fall for me when I had the body and hair to die for. I was dead inside, only a beautiful shell.

And now the size 12 shell is as full and whole as I could ever dream of being. And I get to eat all the key lime pie I want, on top of it. If that’s not the whipped cream and cherry on top of life, I don’t know what is.

Embrace yourself and the curves and curveballs life throws at you.

The hardest ones may end up changing everything — for the very best.

~Jennifer Roberts

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