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  • Writer's pictureLucy Shelby

Calloused Heart

A callous is something that is formed over time. Usually on our feet or hands. It grows as a form of protection. I think of a farmers calloused hands from many years of working with tools and rakes…clearly, I am not a farmer. Do they rake? I digress. I think of a pilgrim walking the great Camino trail through France and Spain. Their feet bloodied and blistered, worn, eventually strong and tough calloused. Callouses don’t come from nothing they grow over time to protect. Eventually the blood is gone, the blister popped, and you are left with a rough, tough, layer of skin.

But how do you get rid of a callous when you no longer need it? Is it possible?

I remember laying in teacher training. 300 yogis in one hot sweaty room. Sounds of heavy breathing, whimpering, gasps, relief. The 90 minute class was over. I remember laying my hand on my heart. I couldn’t feel its beat. Was I dying? Was I dead? I wasn’t dead. I was breathing. But my heart had no beat. A still small voice says, move your hand”. I did not have my hand on my heart, I was holding the right side of my chest. Just inches from her, her being the pulsating beating organ pumping life into my veins, just inches yet so far. I adjusted my hand, thank God, I could feel the beat.

This worried me. I was so disconnected from my heart; I didn’t even know where to put my hand to feel her.

The Callous. The callous had grown so thick I could barely feel her beat, to the point that I didn’t even know how to feel the beat.

Flashback. Thanksgiving. 1996 or 7, I can’t totally remember. It’s the Friday before Thanksgiving. I remember meaning to call my friend Megan. My best friend. The jelly to my peanut butter. That’s what they called us. Peanut Butter and Jelly. BreAD ON BUTTER. We were the bestest of friends. She had driven with my dad to drop me off in St. Louis when my parents divorced. She now lived back in Colorado. I lived in St. Louis. She loved horses. She was dedicated to them. A couple years back we tried to raise money to buy a miniature horse, until we found out they are kind of mean. We did everything together. Until we didn’t because I had to move. I meant to call her; I recall checking in on Fridays. We were little ,11, but we still kept in good touch. For some reason, I didn’t call her that Friday.

Monday before thanksgiving, or was it Saturday? My dad is in town. I’m sitting in a big faded blue checkered chair. Or was it more of a plaid. It was huge, it took up most of the space in our living room, if you could even call it that. We now lived in this tiny super old yellow farmhouse. Our furniture was made for our old big house. Now it was too big, but we made it work. I’m sitting in the chair. My entire family is surrounding me. My mom, my dad, my two older sisters. “Honey, Megan had an accident” “Oh my goodness should I send her a get-well card?” Megan was always in the hospital. Broken arm, tonsils, orthodontist surgery. This was normal. “No honey, she didn’t make it” Everything went blank. My world froze, all I could think is “this is my fault” If only I had called Friday like I said I would. If only I hadn’t moved, if only if only if only. She had fallen off her horse and broke her neck. She loved horses. If I hadn’t had moved, she would have never gotten a horse. She never was allowed a horse before. Now she’s dead. It’s my fault. Of course, I said none of this. I must have cried. I remember my body felt like bricks. I climbed up the stairs to my bedroom. It felt like climbing mount Everest. Those stairs were already unnaturally steep, but now they felt impossible. I may have even crawled.

I fell asleep in my bed and woke up to my sister cuddling me. We both just starred in shock. Friends came over with a pie. They gave me a hug. The Callous started to grow. Well, the blood started to flow. My heart was bleeding, the blisters not yet formed. That happens over time. Grief is like a pilgrimage. Sometimes you feel strong, but mostly you feel the weight of your body on your feet, and you have no idea when it will end.

The memorial service was in Evergreen, Colorado that Friday after Thanksgiving. My family made the pilgrimage there. We drove 20 hours in our blue van. We made a little book. The adventures of Peanut butter and Jelly. I mostly remember my sister asking me questions and writing funny little stories of our friendship, pasting pictures to paper, searching for a copy machine off of I-70.

So what do I need to let go of? Is it possible. I’ve done a lot of work around my loss of Megan. I have even had her visit me in Peru. That’s another story to be told. She would be 40. I feel like I need to take a very gentle knife, like the one at the nail salon and gently shave off the skin protecting my heart. It’s not something you can do fast. It takes as long to get rid of a callous as it does to build one. I gently everyday carve away at the skin.

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