Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Year three begins

It was two years ago that I began this process of remembering every day that passes.

As I enter the third year, I see no reason to stop. The process I have developed is manageable and rewarding. Sustainable. At least for now. Perhaps there will come a time when I have to change the review process that I find essential not to lose days, but not yet.

Various postings on this blog record the benefits I find from this process. They go beyond being able to remember where I was on any day and the corollory of being able to remember when I visited a particular place or when something happened during this period.

I have a fresh perspective on time, one that continues to develop.

Recently my mother has started to lose her short-term memory. She repeats the same stories and questions. When I last saw her she kept commenting that time seems to speed up as you age and asking if I find the same.

Not as such. Not any more.

I know how long a year is. I hold every day of the last two years in my mind.

A year is a long time. That's 365 or 366 memory tags to remember for each year, pinned to my mental calendar. Remembering this sequence of 731 days using the techniques I have developed is not difficult, even though it is a lot of days lived.

When I choose the image to pin to my mental calendar to represent that day in my life, I decide the events, people and feelings encompassed in the image that I will remember forever. I don't consciously try to capture every moment of every day, just the memory tags, which then serve as a portal I can drop through to recall so much more about the day, building and branching from the reference point I carry with me.

There are transitions between places and experiences in the sequence of days. The first three quarters of 2012 was basically a happy time, one of the happiest years I have spent. And then a young relative was diagnosed with cancer. The last 14 months of memories contain the last days I spent with this relative, the periods I was away from my wife when I had to work in my country and she was visiting hers to give support. Receiving the news of my relative's death is a memory tag I would rather not have.

I am grateful that the memories of the days spent together have not become one indistinguishable mass: I remember when and where we went out for a family breakfast or lunch. At least during this period. Looking further back, I have isolated memories with no firm date or even year attached. These are important, but they are different and bring home to me the difference between passively remembering something that happened and actively choosing to remember, to store and retain a memory for future retrieval.

Memories change with distance in a quite peculiar way, I have found. Like all the days of the past two years, I have revisited 17 December 2011 at regular intervals in the reviews that refresh the images. That day has gone from being yesterday to being two years ago. In the memory tag, my wife and I are having lunch with a pregnant friend and her husband. Their daughter is now someone we have come to know. She is there in a set of images pinned to my mental calendar from the day we received the news she had been born. I have the day I first saw her and images of her changing from a perpetually sleeping baby to an energetic toddler.

I too have changed as I have experienced new things, one of them being this process of remembering.

In several regards this has been profound. As I have moved around a lot, between my own country and that of my wife, particularly in the last 14 months, I am reminded in my reviews of where I have been and that those places continue, with the people I love still in them. While I still try to live in the moment, behind my eyes I carry the world with me and in each review return to the places I have been.

The places I will go in the future seem a little different too. I have always been well organised when it comes to transitions and travel - and so generally taken them in my stride and been relaxed about them. Visualising logistics, particularly during this difficult year, has had a different flavour to it, however, because events written in my diary become memory tags on my mental calendar as the future changes to past. This is not exactly unnerving, but I am struck sometimes by the illusion that I am a wavefront travelling along a pre-existing timeline.

On a more positive note, I am less inclined to worry about forthcoming events or possible problems - or at least I am able to decide the time for worrying is not now: I will face what I need to face at the appropriate time. Quite often problems fail to materialise or are resolved if they are not worried at. Or if action is required when the time comes, things may well have started to slot into place and solutions emerged from my subconscious.

Perhaps the most profound change from this process is to do with my sense of mental well-being.

While I am aware there is something obsessive about running through a selection of images each and every day, I feel this is a healthy obsession. It is based on the solid foundation of real things, real people and real events. Even though the reviews take up just a short part of my day, perhaps 20 minutes, they ground me. Outside that time, I am getting on with life and not over analysing what I am doing and how I am feeling, which I may have done in the past, particularly during stressful times.

This process provides a daily reminder of the obvious statement that nothing lasts forever.

Be it good. Be it bad. Be it time spent with loved ones.

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