Have you ever done something like this?
The other day I was drying off from my shower and starting to get dressed when I suddenly thought, “Did I shave my left leg?” I mean, I knew I shaved my right leg; I remembered doing that. But I had no memory of actually shaving my left leg. So I rubbed my left leg. Smooth. Seriously? Two minutes — three, tops! — had gone by, and I didn’t remember shaving that leg at all.
This sort of thing happens to me often. I will finish a shower and not remember using conditioner, though my hair is smooth and soft. Or I will drive home from a doctor’s appointment and not remember passing by stores or buildings that I had to have driven past.
Do you do this too?
It’s like my brain goes on autopilot handling these mundane tasks, and I don’t really pay attention to doing them.
And it’s not such a big deal when I’m shaving my legs or conditioning my hair. But sometimes I will get up from the table, where I’ve been sitting with one of my children. And I know my child has been telling me something about a Lego creation or about an episode of Phineas and Ferb or about the trick bike his friend has, but I won’t remember a word he said. Because my brain was composing that email to a friend or planning next week’s menu instead of listening to him.
Then it really stinks to be on autopilot. Because my children are not mundane tasks. They are people I am investing in. And I know that my time with them is far too brief to spend it on autopilot.
And so I want to be more deliberate, more engaged. The minutes I spend on autopilot add up to hours and days and months and years. And what kind of a life is that? Coasting through, half paying attention, half engaged.
There is a magnet on my fridge that says, “The world is full of people who will go their whole lives and not actually live one day. She did not intend on being one of them.”
I want to live being fully present, alert, noticing the smell of the shaving gel, the shape of the rooflines, the vibrant colors of the cars I drive past. I want to look my children in the eyes and listen and actively respond to the things they tell me. I know there will be times when they won’t be jabbering non-stop, so I want to soak it in now. Some day, they will need to talk with me about something far more important than Legos and trick bikes, and I want them to know I will stop what I am doing and listen, really listen.
No more autopilot for me. I want to live my life.