Thursday 6 January 2022

Ten years of remembering every day that passes

I began this process on 17 December 2011 and let the tenth anniversary pass without comment, so the time has come to reflect.

Firstly, I continue with this process. Every day I record a memory tag on my mental calendar and regularly review past days.

My current review process is to go through a month at a time per year. I'm currently on the month of September, remembering consecutive days of each month from 2012. It continues to be enriching. I would not have thought of many or even most of the events covered, but for this process. Indeed, I rarely recall events from the years prior to 2012 and have few landmarks for them.

The passage of time continues to surprise me. The moments captured in my images are fresh, but my perspective on them changes. Remembering every day gives me appreciation of how much happens in a year, yet I also feel the relentlessness of time's passing.

I have no intention to stop, but it has inevitably become harder to refresh the memory tags on my mental calendar. When this was easiest, I was recalling each image at least once per month. With approaching 4000 images, I need to get through 3 months per day. That rarely happens as my discipline has waned and I've let things slide when I've struggled to remember tags. Other times, an image may distract me to recall other events of the day or associated days.

Over the years, my review process has adapted as the days have piled up. My current approach to cope is not to obsess if tags elude me, but to go through what I can in the hope that missing tags will appear next time around. It is often the case that recalling subsequent months or years will suddenly unlock other tags. They are still there.

For many years, I wrote nothing down, though sometimes I might have to look back through photos or other records to find out what I was doing on a particular day where the memory tag alluded more. Prior to this process, I kept a diary and a few years ago I caught up with it, writing entries from years before retrospectively based on my memory tags.

More recently, I've kept a diary as I go, recording significant events and identifying the memory tag at the top of the page. This is not a substitute for my mental calendar, but it helps me to reinforce the memory tags during the early weeks.

It's always been the case that most recent tags are most elusive because I have spent less time reinforcing them. I've learned that I need to regularly refresh the tags by calling them to mind. What worked best was running through every day of the past month and a couple of days per month of the preceding 6 months, then selected periods of earlier years.

Often these days, I don't even complete the daily review of even the last month and so have to resort to the diary to fill in blanks. Occasionally, I'll look further back, but generally the diary is for these more recent days.

Another pressure on my time to remember is I'm using my brain for other purposes. My New Year's Resolution in 2019 was to learn the piano. Key to success is building mental representations of music and the keyboard. Increasingly, I do this by playing pieces on my mental piano, which now competes with my mental calendar for my attention.

But I'm not giving up. I am increasingly grateful for memories of times that have gone and the people who are no longer with us. 

Relatives and friends who have passed away. 

My mother's decline into Alzheimer's, which has wiped us from her memory. And put her into a care home when she became terrified of the strangers keeping her in a strange house. 

For a while she believed the care home was her childhood home and she had just come in for a rest from helping her father in the garden. Now those memories appear to have gone too, and though she is friendly when we visit, barely communicates. She smiles at us, but for the warmth of human contact, not recognition.

This shows me the fragility of our brains, that our memories are essential for our relationships, but that we are also more than our memories. Aspects of our personalities reside at a deeper level.

Sometimes, I wonder if there is something to be gained from letting these days go. It is normal to forget. 

Yet, I can see no advantage. The great benefit of this process, even as I struggle with it, is it gives me a rounded view of my life. 

The few memories I have from the years before sometimes taunt me with my failings and are missing the perspective given by putting isolated incidents into their surrounding context. 

So, I will continue to remember every day that passes, as best I can, and continue to be amazed by what it is to live a life.


  1. 10 years is a magnificent achievement. Hats off: your project is one the most beautiful and moving thing I've ever seen.

  2. Hi Lembran, it's heartening to see your updates with this great practice.
    I was thinking of doing it a while ago, by either storing each day's tags in a flashcard app (perhaps too much work?) or instead simply reviewing in a logarithmic pattern (i.e. today I'd review yesterday, the day before yesterday, 4 days ago, 8 days ago, etc...), which would let you cover 90 years after reading 16 entries, with most of the attention on recent events. That's kind of how flashcard apps work anyway. I'm really tempted to try it now after reading your anniversary post.

  3. Thank you for all the work you do - memorizing and sharing your progress. You are a hero to us.