Sunday, 22 December 2013

The long view

Now that I am embarking on my third year of remembering every day that passes, I can take advantage of a rather pleasing phenomena: I know exactly where I was and what I was doing on the same date one and two years ago.

Today is Sunday 22nd December 2013.

A year ago, I know the date was a day earlier. On Saturday 22nd December 2012, I was at a family gathering.

Two years earlier and the date was two days earlier, 2012 being a leap year, giving me Thursday 22 December 2011. In any case, the image pinned to my mental calendar tells me it was a Thursday. I am in a café with my wife and niece having lunch on a Christmas shopping trip. I remember I will leave them to go and see a podiatrist and collect them later.

From time to time I've tried to remember the same dates going back through the years. Now I have two definite points of reference for past years, I'm motivated to try to make this a more routine part of my reviews to see what happens. Even if I cannot find images for specific dates, it would be nice to have images for the each month - or even just the year.

Early on in this process, I switched from remembering from the present to the past, to the other way around. In my current review process, I start 6 months ago and pass a two-day window over each week, moving towards the present. In my longer term review, I start in January 2011 and remember a day per month moving forward to the present.

So yesterday I thought I would try to remember every December from the year of my birth to the present. I did not get far. Firstly, I had to scale back my ambition to remembering something specific to the year. I have memories from before I began going to school. School years are marked by different classes and teachers.

My pre-school memories are few, but I could read before I started school, so I tried to find memories of learning to read. This theme opened a rich vein. It brought to mind early books and comments, and later, favourite authors and trips to towns where I visited book shops, sometimes with my father as my mother looked at other things.

None of these memories are attached to dates and it is difficult to identify even a particular year.

I began this process after reading of people with hyperthymesia, who can remember every day from their early childhood.

I had a happy childhood and have been very fortunate with life as a whole, but some negative experiences of bullying when a child and drug use and breakdown when a young adult, have overshadowed much of these decades, such that they feel locked behind frosted glass. When those times passed and I made peace with myself, I have been in such a rush to make the most of life, that living in the moment has overshadowed the past. I've rarely looked back.

Having found so much positive in being able to remember every day of the past two years, I wonder how things would have been different had I began this process earlier. I suspect the perspective would have been a great help: I would have remembered most of my days were happy as I lived them and had a greater sense of self when under attack. Although my demons have long been laid to rest, it may be I can break through the frosted glass by putting days in their proper place now.

Why bother? Well, firstly this is an experiment and I want to see what happens. Secondly, my parents are now old in years and as I feel increasingly they will need my help, it is good to be reminded that they are not weak, but coped with raising a family, with raising me, and with all that life threw at them.

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