Friday, 8 March 2013

Memory lapse

One year three months into this process and finally I have to report a memory lapse.

It was not quite in the form I was expecting this to take. I thought that the day would come when I would try to remember the memory tag for a particular day and would find nothing.

That's not the problem at all.

All 447 tags - at the time of writing - are there. I can confidently say where I was this time last year and what I was doing (not very exciting: 8 March 2012 was a Thursday and I had to stay in for a plumber to fix a tap in the flat we were renting). I can still recall any other day since I began this process.

The problem is more subtle.

My tag for 20 December 2011 is leaving the house were we had rented a room on returning from some time in my wife's country for the last time. We are saying goodbye to the landlady in the image pinned to my mental calendar. She was in a good mood as a neighbour had left a gift of a house plant on her doorstep as a Christmas present and to apologise for any inconvenience and noise as they had been having work done. She came out with a quaintly old English phrase: "I am bowled over".

Or it might have been: "I am knocked out".

For over a year that phrase has been part of my trigger for remembering the day and suddenly, a few days ago, I couldn't for the life of me remember which one it was.

At one moment I will feel certain it was the first one, then I can convince myself it was the other. I feel like an unreliable witness, despite everything.

Now a second memory lapse has snuck up on me. My tag for 20 June 2012 (a Wednesday) is staying at home to complete translation job for a new client. I was feeling particularly pleased because although I spent a hard day working at it, I was being paid a good rate. Part of my tag was sending the completed work off in an email to Maura. Or was it Monica? It definitely began with M.

This one I could look up, but that is not the point.

In fact, scratch that, I just looked through the archaeological layers of my sent emails and there, sure as eggs is eggs, is the email I sent on 20 June 2012. To Monica.

So in both these cases I have the genuine memory and an alternative false memory. Telling them apart, without outside confirmation, is impossible.

The first example will be lost forever unless I find certainty - every time I recall that day, I seek it - but could I even trust certainty if I found it?

This is telling me something profound about how memory works. Or at least how my memory works, or fails to.

Though I'm not yet sure what.

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