Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Two-year window

It is now 500 days since I began this process of remembering every day that passes and so far, so good: no lost days.

How to extend this indefinitely is something that I am considering as the time taken in my daily reviews expands. I currently run a two-day window over each week since I began this process to refresh the images pinned to my mental calendar. Today being Tuesday, I recall every Monday and Tuesday, starting from Monday 19 December 2011 (first image: eating mince pies on the last day in my office before travelling for Christmas).

It now feels very arbitrary to begin the process with those first days in December, as if my life before then is somehow separate. It is also increasingly unnecessary as I have filled in some of the blanks on my mental calendar by spending odd moments in the day thinking back to the same day of the month as far back as I have time to go. So today being the 30 April, I recall images for every 30th day, scrollowing back through my memories, sometimes through recent years. A further extension is to go back to my childhood for the same date each year.

I was already thinking that a way to make this refreshing process sustainable is to allow the early dates to drop out of my two-day window review (in which the images are reviewed twice per week) after say two years and then only referesh them in the day per month review thereafter. This process is begin on 17 December 2013.

From then onwards my plan is to start the two-day window two years before, requiring a run through of just over 200 memory tags, which should easily fit within my 20-minute wake up routine (I now fit much of this review into the time I am doing my Global Postural Reeducation exercises).

I am nervous that blanks will start to appear when days move into the day per month review outside the two-year window.

Accordingly, to ease into this two-year window plan, I have started it now, making use of the many images I have found for the days before I began this process.

Any images I have recovered at the start of this period are already a bonus and I hope they will become firmly entrenched and attached to their dates by the time they drop out the two-year window, so building my confidence for when I risk letting these 500 days and counting fall from my reviews.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

New perspective

One desired outcome of correcting my faulty posture through Global Postural Reeducation, is to move the position of my head back a few inches.

This is starting to happen, though there is still resistance for my head to sit in the position where it feels it should be.

One impact of the movement that has occured is it gives me a different perspective of the rest of my body: from my viewpoint my chest has expanded.

Of course, if anyone else does notice any difference it will not be to my chest, but the postion of my head.

All the same, it is a little disconcerting to find my chest ballooning.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Clicking gone

I had my first Global Postural Reeducation session on 22 March 2013 (it's my memory tag for that day).

I was motivated by the violent and recurring clicking in my neck, usually when moving my head while working with my laptop on my lap.

I am doing the exercises at home as instructed and am already noticing great changes in my posture - and my self-perception.

It struck me today that the clicking in my neck has just about gone.

I now most often work at a table, not least because it is no longer relaxing to do so slouched in the armchair, but uncomfortable.

Beyond this, my spine seems to be opening up, making me feel a little taller and lighter.

One useful visualisation in trying to adjust mentally to my new posture, is to imagine puppet strings attached to my head, holding it in the correct position, with my body hanging naturally below; the bones and joints of my skeleton falling into place.

The forces I apply to my body in the exercises to loosen up the muscles so this becomes reality, show me where the resistance remains. I am often applying these forces outside of the exercises, as I sit, drive, lean against a wall while waiting for the kettle to boil.

Often I find myself slipping into my chin forward slouch and have to correct it.

But I can see the day coming where forces are replaced by freedom and suppleness.

Having lost much of the violent clicking so soon is unexpected.

Friday, 19 April 2013


Nearly a month after I began General Postural Reeducation (my memory tag for 22 March 2013), I have noticed three intriguing side effects.

My posture has definitely improved to the point that I am aware when I am standing or sitting correctly - or nearly so. I still have to stretch my spine out a little more through the various exercises I have been given. Sometimes though, when I am on a run and have loosened up, it feels like I am just about there. There is a sense of recognition. Which brings me to the first side effect.

Checking out in the mirror how I am standing when I clean my teeth, I have a feeling of recaptured youth.

In part this is because my body just sags less with my shoulders back and standing up straight. In part my neck does not seem so scrawny with my head no longer thrusting forward.

But I think the main reason is something much more subtle: a subconscious remembering that this is how I stood as a child, before the burden of my troubles and struggles. It is almost as if I have shaken off the weight of intervening years.

Which leads me to the second intriguing side effect.

Although I have changed my posture - and continue to change it against resisting, tight muscles - this new way of being seems familiar in another way. It is not just the memory of youth, but the discovery of the man within.

Looking at the people around me, I am aware that many of them have poor posture too, but many more have what I suppose I should call normal posture. I feel like I have joined that group. What might sum up the strangeness of this sensation is the feeling of empathy with the man in an advertising hoarding. It is me they have been trying to reach after all. There is a sense of recognition.

I don't know if anyone else notices anything that different. I showed my wife the picture of different postures from my last posting. Although I feel I was as contorted as one of the wrong postures, she didn't see it. So the changes are perhaps subtle, but at the same time I feel I am becoming normal, in the physical sense at least.

Although all the above is largely psychological - not to say anal - the third side effect is even more so.

It is a quiet feeling of peace and confidence. Although I don't really lack either, there is something new happening. Perhaps not just from postural changes, but the developments in my experiment in remembering every day that passes. I feel somehow more relaxed and grounded. Walking down the street with my centre of gravity balanced as it should be, rather than in a chin forward rush, taking on the world.

There have been several times over the past few days where, out and about, I have joked with strangers in a way I haven't done for ages.

Perhaps it comes from feeling more comfortable in my own skin.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Reeducated posture

I have had three sessions of Global Postural Reeducation and have been doing the exercises just about every morning.

It is already making a noticeable difference. Even though my spine isn't quite back into the position where it should be, it is on the way.

My head is now sitting further back and my shoulders are level and not scrunched forward.

I found this site by physiotherapist Susy Russell who suggests a simple test of standing against a wall and seeing how far off your head sits. Every inch adds leverage that your neck muscles have to counter.

I've linked to the image below from Susy's site as it shows my poor posture well.

Although I didn't take note of the terms my own physio used at my diagnosis session on 22 March, I see from this image that I have a tendency for the middle posture. The varioius exercises I have been given aim to loosen up the muscles around my spine to straighten my back. These tend to throw my head back, so I also have to work to bring that down by trying to point my chin towards my chest.

It is not just about stretching, but also reeducation and becoming accustomed to standing or sitting in the correct position. I now do so most of the time. At least, I catch myself in the right position much more often than in the wrong one. Sitting at a table, I have lost the tendency to hunch over it, with my legs crossed. I'm sitting up straight - something that used to feel uncomfortable and unnatural.

There are three intriguing side effects of this process, which I'll write about in the following posts.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


As I wrote recently, I have lost the surprise that sometimes came with realising an event was a whole year ago.

Now I know what a year feels like: 365 days of events, places, people, weather, changes and familiarity.

When I was a child, it seemed that a year was an eternity. Looking ahead to summer holidays or thinking of moving to the next school year. Contemplating turning 18 and suddenly becoming an adult, wondering if something would suddenly switch on and I would know what to do and never be afraid, like my parents.

I have now recaptured something of that childhood feeling of how big a year is.

Yesterday in an odd moment, I thought back through the 15th day of each month since I began this process. As I often do when I have the time, I went back even further, which brought me to 15 April 2011.

Remembering that day brought a smile to my face.

Not only at the memory, but at the thought: "Ah yes, this is what two years feels like."

Monday, 15 April 2013

The indelible past?

My review of past days was very different today.

My mental calendar has become a landscape with not only the images pinned to each date as memory tags, the surrounding rich context also calls for my attention when I think of a date.

Zooming in on a date brought up so many other memories of it and surrounding days. It felt almost a reversal to move from the vantage point of seeing the whole landscape to step, metaphorically speaking, onto a date to recall the image.

This gave me the breathless thought that maybe the time I need to do these daily reviews is passing.

Each morning I have been running a two-day window over every week (even a three-day window before that started to take too long). So today being Monday, I remember each Sunday and Monday since I began this process on 17 December 2011.

Except this morning I had the feeling that I was constraining myself to pick out the single images I use as tags when the whole landscape is there.

The scary, but exciting thought, which I do not yet believe, is the landscape is the past and so it is permanent and unchanging and will continue to be there. Set in stone. Indelible.

This is surely an illusion as I have constructed my mental calendar from the moments I have chosen to remember. If I stop the process of adding an image to the calendar at the end of the day or no longer review the images to entrench them, surely it will start to fall apart.

I will continue my daily reviews for now, but it seems this experiment has entered a new phase.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Seeing the landscape

Yesterday I lost the feeling of surprise that sometimes arose when recalling a particular image pinned to my mental calendar as a memory tag. The idea that the event might have taken place more recently or longer ago than the reality now seems to be almost like a misconception of an innocent age.

It has taken 484 days of remembering an increasing number of days to appreciate how they fit together.

This appreciation has immediately changed my perspective.

In my review this morning, I moved on from visualising my mental calendar and recalling the tags for each Saturday and Sunday since I began this process on 17 December 2011. Instead, it seemed as if the whole of the calendar was laid out before me, like a landscape. This represented much more than the images pinned to each day: it contained the rise and fall of moods, anticipation of coming events, memories of past events, the feelings conjured up by place and the people I was with, the concerns on my mind. The landscape contains the rich scenery of my life.

Choosing a date still called up the memory tag, but with much less effort, because of the surrounding context. I was not so much trying to find an image to remember the day, but looking for the chosen image amongst the richness surrounding it.

Over this 16 months, I have developed and practised various techniques for remembering elusive memory tags, which principally involve using the surrounding context. Like in my juggling analogy from yesterday, visualising the context now seems to have become second nature and today things clicked into place. Like the time when I suddenly realised I was no longer thinking about throwing and catching juggling ball, but simply juggling.

My minds eye now sees far more of my mental calendar that the images I have used to construct it.

It is breath taking and I am now even more excited to see how this experiment develops.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Not so surprising

Ever since I began this process of remembering every day that passes at the end of 2011, I have been repeatedly surprised at how long ago - or how recently - certain events took place.

I'd think of an image used as a memory tag on my mental calendar in my regular reviews and there would a frisson of surprise at where it fitted in to my timeline.

I know I am not alone in finding the passage of time confusing.

Often in conversation, family and friends will comment on the same thing, particularly as I am now more likely to be able to say precisely when a particular event took place. "Was that really last year? It seems like yesterday." And the opposite.

However, more recently, this feeling has disappeared. I am no longer surprised.

It was initially a conscious decision. A particular image took me by surprise and I reminded myself that I know very well that the event took place a year ago. This seemed to liberate me. Suddenly I had to accept I know where the images fit in their correct place.

It reminds me of learning to juggle.

I found the secret to learning to juggle many years ago (okay, 1987, seeing as I can place it) - enabling me to teach many others to do simple three-ball juggling: think of one aspect at a time. For example, throwing the ball from my right hand so it peaks at a suitable height and falls towards my left hand, without worrying about catching it. Then switching focus to getting rid of the ball that is in my left hand so I can catch the first ball. Ideally that ball should follow an arc to my right hand, but I don't worry about that: dropping the ball is fine. Then focus on catching the first ball in my empty left hand. With each step I told myself I didn't need to worry about the previous ones as I had already demonstrated to myself that I had mastered them.

Following this process, the day came when I had progressed through all the required steps and could juggle. At the outset I would have to focus in again on a particular aspect to sort out shortcomings, but with time it took no conscious thought at all.

So I know how the images on my mental calendar are arranged. I have put in the effort at developing ways to remember those that are elusive. It should no longer surprise me they are in order, that particular events took place when they did.

And it seems I am no longer surprised.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Head on my shoulders

My memory tag for 22 March 2013 is my first session of Global Postural Reeducation (GPR).

I've had another session since then and have been doing the exercises every morning. The main purpose of these is to stretch the muscles around my spine to correct my posture, particularly the chin up and forward position of my head.

My head doesn't really want to go to where it should be, though that is changing. This is most noticeable in the exercise laying on my back, close to the wall so my legs are pressed against it as they point to the ceiling. My feet are flexed downwards and a thin pillow under my head corrects the tendency for my head to throw backwards. Instead my neck is straight and I try to tip my head downwards, though it will not move beyond looking straight up at the ceiling.

Part of the point of GPR is the feedback between body and mind. I am beginning to feel what is the correct position. This stays with me more and more. So much so that when I run, I can slip into what feels almost to be the correct position, particularly as my neck muscles relax as the run progresses.

It is interesting to look at past photographs, where I can see how I am sitting or standing incorrectly. Some new ones will show how much that has changed.

As yet, my new improved posture has not stopped the violent cracks from my neck vertebrae when I sit too long at the computer. Hopefully that will come.

Unexpected wedding

There was the surprise announcement of the imminent wedding of a couple of teenagers at my wife's church last week. The news is a whispered scandal.

Teenage pregnancies outside marriage are not uncommon, of course, but in the context of the church sex outside marriage - and disobeying parents - are serious issues.

The families are standing by them and welcome their decision to get married. It does occur to me that this understanding may come from one or more of the respective parents being able to empathise through their own less than strict adherence to church rules in their own youth.

The church itself is a little less forgiving. Half of the couple is the son of a Minister and he has been removed from the church band for an unspecified time. There needs to be some sort of penance - or at least a public message that his action is not condoned.

It is ironic in some ways as my current re-reading the the Bible from beginning to end shows plenty of behaviour far worse from people held up as heroes. As an example, Judah slept with a shrine prostitute and left his seal and staff in lieu of payment. Unbeknown to him it was his daughter-in-law, Tamar, in disguise. When it was revealed that Tamar was pregnant as she had been working as a prostitute, he ordered her to be burned to death. His hypocrisy was exposed when she presented the seal and staff to identify the father of her child. Judah spared her life (Genesis 38:1-30).

Yet elsewhere the hero is Eleazar for killing a member of the tribe of Israel who formed a relationship with a Midianite woman when they were in the wilderness. He thrust a spear through the couple as they lay together so bringing an end to a plague that God had brought to punish the tribe for forming relationships with other peoples and following their gods (Number 25:6-9). 

For myself, I wish them well and I cannot condemn. In fact, I hope they are happy. I am reminded of the line from John Lennon: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

There are many forks along life's road. There are past girlfriends I might have ended up marrying - or might still be tied to now from an unexpected pregnancy, a child and lifelong responsibility. In one case we did have a pregnancy scare, so I looked down a road that might have been. That, incidentally, killed our trust in contraceptives and we took a less risky approach from then on, something I continued with another couple of partners, a decision that was perhaps a blessing for one as it turned out she had been raped a year or so before and our relationship may have been a healing staging post on a journey back to trusting intimacy even if our future was not meant to be together.

So there will be a wedding and a birth. Fate has played its part, but perhaps no more so than in the chance encounters that bring many couples together. I met my own wife at an international meeting, we spent an evening dancing and it turned out she was passing through my country a few months later. 

Forks in the road.

Monday, 1 April 2013

The year 2012

Three months of 2013 have passed. The new year is starting to age. The freshness of January has gone. It is only more recent weeks that retain a feeling of proximity, enabling a sense of time without thinking of dates.

The year 2012 has receeded into the past now. The images I have as tags for each day would be difficult to place in that year rather than another, were they not pinned to my mental calendar.

There are 366 dates on that calendar with at least one image pinned to each. Without them how much would I remember of 2012? A month-long visit from one of my wife's sisters and her friend, might be reduced to three or four key memories. Perhaps I would remember the date when we left my country to return to my wife's, possibly even the different relatives we visited on our return, but not how long we spent with each and how we filled those days.

It would be like the year 2011, where for the months before 17 December, when I began this process of remembering every day that passes, I have recovered just one or two images to represent a whole month. The rest is white out.

I can remember this date - 1 April - from a year ago in great detail. My memory tag is watching a street artist with my nephew, who has been staying with us. We are on the way to meet my brother. This image is an entry point to the details of the day: the picnic we had in a park, visiting a steam museum, my mobile phone dying.

There are other days I remember in as much detail from before I began this process: I can run through my wedding day over a decade ago from morning until night. There is a similar level of detail and ability to inhabit the memories. But for 2012, I have this for every day.

Another of my wife's sisters visited this weekend, bringing an album of the ceremony renewing her wedding vows 25 years on, which we missed last year. Looking at the date, I could remember where I was and what I was doing. It was nothing significant, just a day at work and taking the rear wheel of my bicycle to be repaired.

The year 2012 is special as it is the first year where I can remember every day. But now it feels done and dusted.

History, like the other years I remember less well or hardly at all.