Have you said something in a habitual and automated fashion, only to realize later on how stupid you must have sounded?
It happened to me on several occasions and it almost happened again the other day, when I returned the keys to the rental car counter and the white-haired man said, "Thank you and have a safe flight!"
"I almost blurted out, 'You, too!' and realized you're not flying anywhere!" I said and laughed.
The old man laughed and said, "Who knows, I may just jump in to the next plane."
I bet that was not the first time it happened to him. On my ride to the airport terminal, I pondered on the ailment of automaticity. The things that I say or do everyday become so habitual, sometimes I do it without much thought on why I'm doing it. My body get so immersed into the routine and motion, my heart and mind are no longer in it.
"Have a good one," someone would say, and by instinct I'd reply, "You, too!"
"How you doin'?" someone would ask, and leave even before you'd get to answer.
Time in, time out, and it's just another day at work.
This is probably the reason why some work no longer fulfill the employees or why some companies lose touch with their customers' needs.
Even in my prayer life, I had to resist automaticity. When the Our Father, the rosary or the daily mass had become a routine, my body disintegrates from my heart and mind.
I had to exert an effort each time to recollect my senses and bring myself into the Holy Presence of God so He comes close to me and becomes personal. Only then does the door of my heart open to welcome Him; His Words come alive and able to touch me.
I realize that my daily routines also need such mindfulness so I don't fall into automaticity with how I deal with my spouse, children, and people I come in contact with everyday.
No wonder the "how's school?" routine question gets a routine "so-so" shrug answer. Parents nowadays seemed too busy to look into their children's eyes when they speak.
Automaticity. Personal touch. These two should not fall at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Automatic personal touch, how about that?
When I got to the airport terminal and hopped down, the driver said, "Take care and have a safe flight."
This time I had more presence of mind to say, "You have a great day!"
When talking to someone, take the time to look him or her in the eye and give all your attention to the person. That is love at its simplest form.