Going on autopilot: Conversation Starters

I get so lost in thought I sometimes go on autopilot. It’s amazing what I’m capable of doing without noticing, but also pretty funny when my mind messes up.

I’m sure we all have had brief mess ups like throwing away a plate and putting the pizza crust in the sink, or squirting out body wash and using it as shampoo. Those happen all the time, a strange short-circuit in the brain where it confuses your hands and pieces things together wrong.

Sometimes I’m five minutes into driving to work when I realize I had meant to drive to the supermarket. Sometimes I just mix objects up all together. I was reading a book and didn’t know the definition of a word, so I pressed it with my finger, waiting for the Kindle definition to pop up. I actually tapped it a few times before I remembered that books don’t do that.

Other times, I just get so in the zone that I don’t stop. I once cut the leaves off a whole carton of strawberries when I had only wanted a few for a snack, for example. Similarly, haven’t we all been so engrossed in a movie we ate the whole extra-large popcorn?

It’s not a bad thing, I don’t think. I usually end up laughing at myself—like when my phone buzzes because I got an email and I assume it’s my alarm. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been halfway through doing my makeup before realizing that it was 2 a.m.

I think the best is the time I was so engaged in a conversation with my friend and offered him something to drink. I was concentrating hard on what they were saying as I took out the glass from the cupboard. My body then automatically washed the glass with soap and water, and placed it on the drying rack. My friend gave me a strange look then laughed, asking me what the heck I was doing, taking clean cups out of the cupboard and washing them, and could he have his drink already?

These are fun conversation starters that allow everyone to relax and laugh a little bit at themselves. Were you ever a kid and accidentally called your teacher mom? Did you ever work as a receptionist and answer your home phone with your scripted greeting? Ever get angry when your dog won’t respond when you accidentally call it your daughter’s name? The stories are easy to tell and entertaining to hear. Share yours!

Undissected

I have a terrible habit of picking at my cuticles. I often do it without thinking, when I’m meant to be writing or listening in class. I get lost in my thoughts and suddenly I’m bleeding out my fingertips.

I think I’ve always had this habit, or one like it. I’ve had times when I’ve bitten my nails instead or cracked my knuckles incessantly, but it’s always something to do with my hands. I think part of it is instinct—perhaps removing the imperfections in my fingers is brought on by some deep drive to pick out bugs. Since there’s no bugs, I transferred that drive to my cuticles.

However, I’m willing to bet that it’s closer to my strive for perfection. I always try to make things perfect, especially when I’m writing (which is when a large percentage of this picking occurs). If my hands aren’t perfectly smooth, maybe that subconsciously tells me that my writing isn’t perfect either. Of course, the ultimate poetic irony is that I strive so hard for perfection I end up hurting myself instead. I bite my nails to the beds, I nip at the cuticles until they’re raw, I crack and recrack my knuckles until I can’t even feel what’s making the sound. I also do this in my writing. I rewrite and rewrite until I lose all confidence.

Then again, maybe it’s just a habit. A way to procrastinate. Writing this, I’ve been hyper-aware of the amount of times I break writing in the middle of a sentence (or word) to scratch my face or examine my nail beds. I do it without thinking or even making the conscious action to do so, but before I realize it there I am, staring at my hands.

Maybe it’s a way I deal with stress. Maybe it’s a way I cause myself stress.

Mostly, it’s making me wonder what else I do without realizing it. Do I miss important things? Do I put myself on autopilot too much? When I trust myself to work without 100% mental capacity, my body ends up slouching, I end up biting my fingers, I end up daydreaming and bouncing my knee and browsing YouTube when I should be being productive.

Is this me knowing when I need a break to be healthy, or is it me just taking a break to be lazy? What is this autopilot, anyway?

Well, it doesn’t matter much. This whole post was a bigger procrastination than any nail-biting could be! Maybe some things are best left undissected.