I can be a little schmutzedecke (the state of being schmutzy). I used to notice it in a different way several years ago, when I’d knock into doorways as I’d pass through and ricochet off (No, I wasn’t drunk!). Or I’d whack my hand on something as I went by. Or notice a bruise I don’t remember getting. None of these things were that painful–in fact, they mostly didn’t register to me. It was just how I walked through the world, and I didn’t much notice it. Until I did.
Having been dubbed “The Ice-Pack Queen” in 6th grade for the frequency of times I ended up in the nurse’s office for one, I’d long lived in a state of semi-unawareness of my physical body and state. There was a physical feedback loop that could happen for my body as I bumped and bruised myself through life: I existed, I took up space, I bump therefore I am. At the same time, there was an opposite expression: I don’t have physical boundaries in the world, it doesn’t matter what happens to my body, I don’t exist.
Over time, this habit of walking into walls (graceful, I know!) subsided, and I’m pleased to report that’s no longer a regular part of my experience—aside from a sporadic stubbed toe.
However, where this type of behavior shows up today seems to be in the schmutzy realm. The yiddish/German term implies having a little grime on oneself. Not splattered with mud or trailing a Pig-Pen-like cloud of filth, my schmutzedecke nature is not (only) the physical spot of dirt realm, but the how I put myself together realm. Sure, I may have a stain of coffee here or a deodorant mark there, but moreso what I’m realizing is that I almost on purpose mess myself up. Like “accidentally” walking into doorways.
There’s a laissez-faire aura about putting myself together that I don’t really enjoy. A feeling of, “It doesn’t matter how I present,” when I know inside that it does matter to me. It’s the small stain or rip, the dowdy sweatshirt when I get home, the splatter left on the stovetop.
I’ve allowed myself to be in a space that reflects that I don’t value how I’m put together, that I “can’t” put myself together, or that, somehow, this put-together thing “passed me by in life and it’s too late” despair whirlpool.
While there are, of course, times that I “pull it together” and look fierce, those are the exceptions. More often, I’m walking out the door a product of (feigned) indifference about my presentation. It’s not a “I want to be label conscious” thing; it’s a “I want to embody my self-esteem” thing.
At some point in my past, I began to notice that I didn’t like “beating” my body up as I slammed and banged through the world. And that habit faded. Today, I feel I’m beginning to notice I don’t like slapping on or mushing up my physical envelope.
Perhaps with this awareness will also come change.