Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Some types of memory tags

To remember each day of my life - the aim of this project - requires developing some memory skills.

During the day there comes one or two points where it strikes me that this is how I will remember this day. This becomes my memory tag to pin to my mental calendar, which is literally a visualisation of a month-to-view calendar, as it exists on my laptop. I try to visualise the month and year at the top of the page, and pin the image to the date, usually when I am laying down to sleep. From its position on the calendar, it is becoming easier to remember quickly the day of the week for a particular date.

Any day consists of many points that could be a reference. I've selected things like:

  • The weather: Tuesday 17 January was particularly cold and the river by which I ride to work was partially frozen.
  • A change of scene: Saturday 14 January we went to Easton and sat in a favourite cafĂ© for lunch, where I ate steak and kidney pie, and my wife had a jacket potato with cottage cheese.
  • The start of a new routine: Tuesday 3 January I collected my bike from where I had left it in storage and rode home to our new flat for the first time.
  • A repeat event: Tuesday 17 January was also the day I had my hair cut. Next time I have it cut, I will know how long it has been since the last time.
  • Something in the news: Friday 13 January was the date several Eurozone countries had their credit ratings downgraded (so far, I've not been big on news tags, and this date is also the day we went to see a critically acclaimed exhibition, a much more cheery tag).
  • Anniversaries and special days: Sunday 25 December was Christmas day - an easy one. Lots of memories come easily to mind, but my specific tag is passing the potatoes to my mother at Christmas dinner. My Christmases have merged into a common mass. I will remember where I spent this one. 
  • Scheduled events: Thursday 12 January I had to travel to a meeting in the capital. My image is using one of the street hire bikes to get back to the station for my train.
  • Something sad or shocking: Wednesday 11 January, someone in my office returned to work after scalding herself badly two days before - though the image is more of the welcome she received. I guess as time goes by - and looking back to fill up the calendar - there will be more significant sad events, such as deaths, accidents and illnesses.
On the last point, it is sometimes surprising how distorted time becomes regarding events that are otherwise so significant. When I last saw a brother-in-law I hadn't seen for a while, I asked after his brother who had been in a bad car accident, and been in a coma for a while. He was doing well, I was told, as the accident was four years ago. I had put it at a year or two.

There is an art to remembering and forgetting. Even since starting this process on 17 December, there have been moments of annoyance, which will probably stick in my memory. But I have decided not to make these my memory pegs.

As an example, we went to see the film The Artist on Sunday 22 January. Seeing the film with my wife is my memory peg, rather than the stupid argument we had beforehand about when was the best time to see the film. That cast a bit of a shadow over the day, but often the best way to move on is to focus on the cheerful (and apologise to each other when the heat has gone out of the argument and make up properly). Perhaps I won't forget the argument, because memory pegs are just a trigger for remembering the whole day, but it is not what I want to be the focus of that day.

If I am going to continue with this project to fill up the calendar pages in past years, there will be far more troublesome issues to learn how to deal with.

But for now, it seems to be generally best to have positive memory tags, because even on bad days there will hopefully something good to hold on to.

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