Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Across the years

In my last post I wrote about pros and cons of my current method for refreshing older memory tags pinned to my mental calendar. The method has changed over time. Currently I recall images for a two-week block of days from each month since I began this process of remembering every day that passes. I don't spend long doing this, just covering several months of my calendar every day.

This gradual progression over the five years I have filled since beginning this process rarely reminds me of what I was doing a year ago as the dates don't coincide. So I have missed birthdays.

The solution is a simple change to my morning review of more recent days. This review passes a two-day window over every week of my calendar for the past six months. To finish, I review the images for every day of the past month.

The change I have made is to add a short review, recalling the images on the same date from when I began this process over five years ago.

In fact, I'm doing this as a two-day window to benefit from the association between adjacent days. So today being February 22, I have recalled the images for the 22nd and 23rd of each month. If there is a birthday tomorrow, I'll remember.

Navigating my mental calendar is now a familiar exercise, so it is easy to locate the day of the week on which these dates fall. Today is Wednesday, February 22, 2012 was also Wednesday. I already recalled the image in yesterday's review so it is familiar to me. A conversation with a particular friend. The image for the next day comes easily to mind – I have been reviewing this sequence for five years, after all. A bike ride.

And so to February 22, 2013. I know this is a Friday (the patterns are clear to me). The image tag is the sound of the security chain running through my cycle helmet as I lock up a different bike in a different city on a different continent. The next day the tag is a particularly important conversation with my wife.

February 22, 2014. A Saturday (the progression is one day when it is not a leap year). It takes a moment to orientate myself on this day. I need a sense of the year. Where I was. What was the theme of this part of the year. When it doesn't come to me instantly, a quick scan of nearby days reminds me, and I know this was a day I had my haircut with my 80-year-old barber in the city I was in at that time and then took the car I had borrowed to check the tyres and oil. The next day's tag is driving to my sister-in-law's to return her car.

February 22, 2015. Sunday, obviously. This part of the year is marked by the illness of a relative. I was visiting and on this day, after a cross-country run in the morning, other relatives dropped by. I left for the city I was working the same day. The tag for Monday comes to mind because it is also about running, this time in a forest near to where I was staying. My landlady's daughter called by when we were chatting in the kitchen, on a run of her own. I learned of a nearby nature reserve for the first time, despite living on and off for over 20 years. My memory tag for the next day is running to visit it.

This was two years ago and I am shocked it is not more recent.

February 22, 2016. Monday, of course. I'm still not fully used to the idea that 2016 is now history set in stone.

The hardest tags to remember were those from 2016. In fact, the tag for February 22 eluded me yesterday. I had to stop worrying at them and let it float into my mind today. It did so while I was having my hair cut (tag for today!). On February 22, 2016 my wife and I went for breakfast in a café we had not visited for some time. She forgot her sunglasses, so I ran there on February 23 to collect them.

This journey across the years is a new addition to my refresh technique and the fabric of my mind is still flexing under its impact on my perceptions of the passage of time.

If I had not begun this Lembransation process, these years would be as indistinct now as those that lay further in the past. The memory tags can transport me back, but sometimes the tag is all I remember. It is really a proxy for the memories of the day. My mind has otherwise let it go, it seems, as with so many of the earlier days in my nearly 52 years.

And yet... this flexing of my mind feels like exercising a new muscle, perhaps strengthening abilities to be able to step into the image and relive the moment, exploring from there. This has happened unexpectedly a couple of times already.

There is a philosophical aspect to this as yet unclear. The person I was five years ago is not the person I am now. I travel back not only through time and space, but through the layers that construct me. I'm not a stranger to myself, but the younger version is different.

On the monthly cycle of these visits across the years, I see my younger self recede, yet it is my present self that is moving forward.

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