Monday, 31 December 2012

That was the year that was

On the last day of 2012 newspapers, television and we ourselves look back over the past 12 months.

Thanks to following this process, I can remember every day of the year - at least the things I have chosen to remember as memory tags pinned to my mental calendar and the associated memories they enable me to access.

There are moments of change. The diagnosis that my too young niece has cancer. The results of an application. The slower transition of an overnight flight from one country to another. The milestone of moving into a new flat - and then moving out again.

But much of the time the change is as gradual as the seasons that provide the scenery through which I move. On many days my work routine is broken only by the ebb and flow of my relationship with my wife and my gradually improving running times and decreasing weight. Inexorably my hair grows - I have made a point of remembering my haircuts and have thereby cured myself of waiting two weeks too long between them.

For the year I have 366 images pinned to my mental calendar, which I can run through in my mind's eye in say an hour. If I remembered every second, it would take me a year, of course. These are my chosen selection of events and my view of these days is biased - and enriched - in ways I have been exploring on this blog.

If I had begun this process at the age of four, like the Brad Williams with hyperthymesia whose experience started me on this pathway, then I would have 43 sets of images to take me back to my childhood, past all the different people I have been as I have grown older and more experienced, and perhaps a little wiser. Waking each morning a little bit different, with new things to face as my world and the world around me changed.

In the retrospectives we will remember the people who are no longer with us. In some cases it will be a surprise that it was so long ago they passed away - I recall watching Whitney Houston's funeral service on the internet on 18 February 2012, it is my memory tag for that day.

Acknowledging every day that passes as I am doing makes me appreciate my days are numbered. As Thomas Hardy observed in one of his novels, which I devoured when at college, unbeknown to us every year we pass a date whose significance we do not know, the pre-anniversary of our coming death.

Holding the whole year of 2012 in my mind brings home how few days make up a life - and I have already lived longer than the life expectation of the not-so-distant past.

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