Saturday, 16 July 2016

Refresh technique for coping with over four years

I have been following this process of remembering every day that passes for four and a half years now, still without losing a day.

But every now and then I've had to change how I refresh the images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags. A month ago I made a major change as I was becoming overwhelmed again. I had been recalling two days from every month for the years 2011 - 2013 on one day and then for the period 2014 - present on the next day. It was proving too difficult to complete, so I stopped.

The method I am using now is to recall images from one year only. But not just two days. Eight days.

At the moment, I've been running through the days 8 - 15 of each month. This is very relaxed because I have 5 years to cover and 8 days to do them in. I can have a day off, or take a couple of days to cover a year.

Once I've orientated myself on my mental calendar, it doesn't really take much longer to remember the 8-day window than the two-day window. 

I have chosen 8 days because it helps in navigating as I imagine I am walking over the calendar.

For example, the 8th January 2015 was a Thursday, I remember. Running through to the 15th takes me to Thursday again. Finishing on the same day means I automatically know the day for the start of the window.

I learnt the patterns long ago to find the same day in the next month. 

January has 31 days, so I move three days along and a month back to find 8 February is a Sunday. 15 February is also Sunday, of course. 

The 8th and 15th March are Sundays (2015 wasn't a leap year). 

March has 31 days, so I move three days on again to take me to Wednesday for 8 and 15 April. April has 30 days, so two days on to Friday for 8 and 15 May. And so on.

The 8-day windows are proving better for reinforcing the landscape of the completed years. And the time between recalling each image on my mental calendar remains the same with this technique. I will think of every day of this period once per month, even if only for a fraction of a second.

I still treat the past 6 months differently. Recalling two days per week, then every day of the last month. I generally do the former every other day.

So now my refresh process is simpler, more relaxed and may not need to change until I have completed 8 years of memories.

But if you want to try this process, see my post "starting out" under "about me".

Friday, 13 May 2016

When were we here?

I often surprise family and friends these days when we visit somewhere and someone says, "When were we last here?"

On a recent trip to a café, I was able to reply, "October 17, 2013. It was a Thursday and we stopped here on the way to visit that place in the countryside."

I even remembered what we had eaten and that in our subsequent visit we had spent some time identifying trees. The trees are included in my memory tag for the day as a way to store the features I need to identify them in future.

I was with my parents on both trips. My mother is suffering memory loss, which is becoming progressively worse. She asked repeatedly if we had been to the café before, even though it is one we have visited many times over the years, though most of those visits are lost in the mists before I began this process of remembering every day that passes.

Eventually my mother stopped asking if we had been to the café before, but then started to say she had been to the café just a few weeks ago. Somehow she had now connected with a past memory, but could not place it in time.

It is sad to see my Mother's memory failing her like this. I wonder if I am destined to suffer the same way in my old age and whether this process will have any impact on what happens.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Roaming free

As I wrote last time, this process of remembering every day that passes collapsed under the number of accumulated days at the end of April.

After a pause, I was ready to start again.

I began with a memory reboot. This is where I start on 17 December 2011 and recall the images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags one day after the other. I aim to cover several months in a day, so after a couple of weeks have caught up.

This time things have been different.

I did the reboot through 2012 and 2013. Then stopped. I didn't feel like doing the same through 2014.

Instead, I continued with my short-term review only. To date, this has covered the past 6 months. I review two days per week. So as today is Thursday, I would review Wednesday and Thursday of each week.

But that felt like too much effort. I was still in need of a lighter regime. So instead of 6 months, I've kept the short-term review to the days of 2016 only.

It's been much more relaxed.

Then I became a little concerned that the images pinned to my mental calendar to remember the end of 2015 might fade as they had dropped out of regular reviews earlier than in my 6-month review approach. Rather than resuming the 6-month review, I've done a separate two-day window review of the whole of 2015.

But again, in a more relaxed way.

This is how it has gone for the past few days.

Monday: I reviewed Monday and Tuesday of every week from 4 January 2016 to a month ago, then every day of the past month.

Tuesday: I reviewed Tuesday and Wednesday of every week in 2015. Then every day of the last month.

Wednesday: I reviewed Wednesday and Thursday of every week from 6 January 2016 to a month ago, then every day of the past month.

Today (Thursday): I will review Thursday and Friday of every week in 2015. Then every day of the last month.

My idea is to follow this sequence until I have looped round to the Monday and Tuesday of every week in 2015. That will complete a memory reboot of 2015.

Then I think I'll do a reboot of 2014 in some way. Either sequentially or this two-day window technique.

My feeling and hope is that these completed years are now familiar landscapes. Perhaps I no longer need the discipline of a rigid method to ensure that I refresh the days within a certain time frame.

I can return to any of the full calendars of memory tags when I choose to roam over them.

Withdrawal and perspective

My refresh technique for reinforcing the images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags was collapsing at the end of April.

So I thought it was time for a pause. I know that I can do a memory reboot, so do not fear stopping. A reboot is where over a period of a couple of weeks I run through the images on my mental calendar sequentially from 17 December 2011 when I began this process of remembering every day that passes. I cover several months a day in free mental time and can then return to whatever method I was using to refresh just a selection of images for each week or month.

I've been remembering every day that passes for over four and half years, so thought I would simply stop for a week or two.

What happened took me by surprise.

Normally - in what has become normal - I often use free mental time to revisit my mental calendar.

Without that distraction I found my mind to focus more on current events, particularly those causing me stress.

From the time before I began this process, I used various phrases to help me cope with stress. Such as "give me more strength". These are to supplant negative thoughts like, "I can't stand any more", or the taunting, self-critical thoughts that come unbidden to anyone sometimes when life is overwhelming.

I found over the several days without my refresh technique that both my coping phrases and taunting thoughts became much more prevalent. I was reminded how draining these can be.

In fact, so draining, that I returned to my mental calendars sooner than I had intended.

Here's why.

It is not for the distraction.

It is not to live in the past.

It is for perspective.

All things pass.

Alighting on the threads of the tapestry of the past few years reminded me of both good times and bad times. Reminded me of my strength. And brought home the passage of time.


That is the greatest gift this process gives me. It is beneficial to my stress levels and mental health.

The nature of my refresh techniques means that the images and events I recall are chosen simply due to their position on my mental calendar. Although the days selected are not random, the events and moods are. I do not tug at particular memories, but see the diversity of separate threads and so gain an overview of the rich tapestry of my life.

However, as I will explain in my next post, I have not returned to my past refresh technique. As often happens when a system collapses under the weight of the accumulated days, a new approach emerges.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Time for a break from reviewing

Over the past 4+ years since I began remembering every day that passes, I have repeatedly found the methods I have developed have collapsed as the number of days has grown. It seems essential to review the images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags at intervals to stop them from fading. I've been doing each image at least once a month using various patterns for selecting the images.

The current method is falling apart. I have been failing to complete the more detailed review of the images pinned to my mental calendar for the most recent 6 months. My practice has been to review two days per week to entrench these images, before they move into less frequent review patters.

So today being Sunday, I would review the images for Saturday and Sunday of each week. Tomorrow I would review the images for Sunday and Monday. The overlap helps to reinforce the connection between consecutive days for long-term sustainability.

More recently, I have only done this every other day. So I might have a break on Monday and instead on Tuesday review Monday and Tuesday images. This covers all days of the week, but without the overlap. That didn't seem an issue as the two-day window shift by a day each week.

More recently still, I've missed doing the review twice and so been faced with using a three-day window to cover missed days. Sometimes I've not even managed that and so have simply run through the whole of the past month or so, just to make sure I don't loose those days.

It seems something has to give. Maybe it is time to give up on the more detailed 6-month review. Do I have the confidence to rely on the in-depth review of the past month only?

At the same time, I've hit a problem with my longer-term review. I had already made this more manageable by splitting it into two. One day, I would review two-days-per-month from the end of 2011 to end of 2013. The next day, I'd review the same two days for each month from the start of 2014 to date.

Today I was to review the 24th and 25th of the each month of the earlier years. But I hadn't completed yesterday's review of 22nd and 23rd of 2014 to date. I was trying to catch up, but it was proving too distracting. So I've stopped.

I'm going to have a day or two off reviewing all except the past month.

Then I'll try a memory reboot, taking a few months each day and reviewing consecutive images. It will take around 16 days to do this reboot, then I'll see what to do next.

Monday, 28 March 2016

The Apple MacBook Pro Easter bug

My memory tag for March 21, 2016, includes opening my MacBook Pro only to see the screen blank out immediately.

I had left it switched on, as is my habit, while travelling back from a weekend away. The battery was flat.

But it would not switch on when the charger was connected. This gave a feeble green glow, instead of the strong orange to show it was charging.

This had happened to me once before - and I suspected I had to wait several days for it to operate again. All the same, I searched the Apple and other discussion groups. It is a common problem, it seems. People suggest resetting the charge memory by holding down shift - alt - command keys (or shift - ctrl - command, I tried all variations), but this made no difference.

Leaving the charger connected overnight did not help.

The solution was to wait three days. The last time it happened the Apple store explained that residual charge would drop below a threshold and something would reset.

On the Thursday, the charger light shone bright when I connected it and it started as normal, even opening the windows for the programs I had last used. That too is in a memory tag.

My battery settings are set to go into power saving mode, but this does not seem to help. My solution is to always shut down, even when leaving the computer for a short time (I thought it had plenty of charge when this happened).

I can only see this as a bug. Why should a laptop be out of commission for three days before resetting? And surely it should be capable of operating on an external power supply.

On the discussion groups, people who have tried everything are finally advised to book an appointment at an Apple store.

But this three-day shut-down seems to be a known failing, even if it is not acknowledged. My MacBook Pro came back to life just before Easter, so it seems apt to call it the Easter bug.

If it happens to you - and your laptop starts working again after three days - post a comment.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Killing flies

Over the past few days I've been remembering days from my youth in great detail.
I have a feeling this is due to my change in approach to the completed years of my mental calendar. I have images pinned to every day of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Each calendar is complete and unchanging - the past is set in stone, even if memories may be reinterpreted in light of later events. I'm treating these as a landscape I can walk over, finding it familiar and welcoming, rather than a challenging feat of memory to recall each separate image.

These years also have become more significant as, following the death of David Bowie, I am imagining how it would be if I had about 18 months to live. I picked a date in May 2017 - not with the intention of really dying, but imagining that is when my mental calendar ends. This has had quite a profound effect in bringing home that the years of my mental calendar are all I have - even if I don't know how many there are to come.

Trying to kill a mosquito this week, I suddenly remembered being a child on holiday with the family in a caravan and killing blue bottles that had invaded our caravan. My brother and I thought it was hilarious fun, until my mother pointed out we were killing living creatures. For many years, I would then chase flies out the window if I could, rather than swat them. Killing mosquitoes, however, is justifiable homicide (or mosquicide).

This memory is very clear, and probably comes from when I was 11, given the age of my brother in the memory and my recollection it was a particularly hot summer. I have probably not recalled this memory for many years, if at all. But it is as vivid as any of those I have consciously pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags to remember every day that passes.

This recollection triggered many other equally vivid memories of my family, some from even further back. Since then, other memories from the more distant past keep popping into my consciousness.

Of course, I would sometimes remember past memories before I began this process.

This week it seems they are coming to me without effort. This is a side effect I will continue to monitor.