How Good Is Your Memory?

I have a great memory. I have a terrible memory. Confused? Let me explain. Ask me to name the Manchester United Premiership winning team of 1992-1993. No problem. Schmeichel, Irwin, Pallister…..Ok Ok you’re not interested, I get it. Back to the main message.

Ask me however what I did yesterday and I struggle. This drives Fionnuala nuts and rightly so. She will ask me to pick up some groceries on the way home. I’ll walk in the door empty handed. She will bring up a discussion we had the previous day. I will look at her blankly. She will remind me about an appointment that we have. I will have no recollection of this.

It drives me nuts as well. I don’t do it deliberately and I can’t understand why I’m like this. When it comes to my job I have an encyclopaedic memory. Dates, names, locations i’m like a walking computer spitting out the details. Ask me what I had for my dinner the previous evening, however, or the route I took for my last long run and I am in trouble.

Maybe it’s hereditary. I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s which really worries me but when I think about it logically I honestly don’t think that’s the reason. We lead hectic lives so maybe it’s just total information overload and my tiny brain can only retain so much. Is it because I use up so much of my time fighting off the intrusive OCD thoughts which threaten to swamp my consciousness? Who knows. It’s not as if I do it deliberately and it’s not as if I don’t care. It’s embarrassing and when I look in Fionnuala’s eyes after I’ve forgotten another mundane detail I see hurt and disappointment.

I don’t want to hurt and disappoint my wife. This hurts and disappoints me. I want to be reliable, trustworthy and bang on my A-game when it comes to my family commitments and responsibilities. So, in order tocounter my shocking memory lapses, I have started to religiously note everything down in a diary. If it ain’t written down then it ain’t happening. It’s always within arms reach. It is my go to new best friend.

I’ve realised I need to write stuff down in order to get it into my head. I need lists and schedules. It’s how my brain works. Without them it turns to mush. I’m already reaping the benefits and believe I have impressed Fionnuala of late with my recollection of a few upcoming events. She will never admit to this but I thought I should record it in the blog for the purposes of posterity anyway.

Isn’t memory a bewildering topic? I can’t remember what I did yesterday but can recall events from thirty years ago with laser accuracy. Down to the fine grain detail. And why is it that so often it’s the traumatic, distressing memories that we retain? Replaying them over and over like a broken cinematic reel. If only we could break the cycle and drain the memory banks of these poisonous thoughts.

I’ve been the victim of some of these thoughts but I’ve also been the originator. Either way they continue to haunt me. I can’t undo what happened and I can’t erase them from my memory. All I can do is focus on the here and now. Focus on working on my memory in order to support my wife and kids today. And by doing so ensure that their memories thirty years from now are happy ones.

We can’t tear down the bad memories but we can be the architects of better ones. Start building today. Even if you have to write it down.

What is your memory like? Do you rely on a diary?

How do you deal with toxic memories from the past?

66 thoughts on “How Good Is Your Memory?

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  1. There are actually many ways of retraining your brain to think a certain way. Mind fuckery is a thing and it needn’t necessarily be a bad thing

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  2. Good question!
    Toxic memories are kept I would say. Not in every detail but still…
    I have a good memory in general but under stress it can play tricks…

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  3. Interesting piece on the marvels of how the memory works, or not. I found it engaging to tead and could connect with a lot of what you said. My mum had a ‘mixed dementia’, couldn’t recall what we’d said 2 minutes ago, yet amazed the memory nurse by being able to reel off words beginning with P for a minute without pause! And the nurse couldn’t spell half of them. The memory is an amazing thing.

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  4. My ToDoist app on my phone saves me on a daily basis, lol. Studies have shown however, that the brain strives to be efficient more than accurate – so that if a tiny detail is missing from a memory it will fill it in with the most logical information to complete it. Essentially everyone remembers everything slightly different and none of which may be truly accurate. Regardless of all that, I don’t remember yesterday – but if you need a backup to sing a song I probably know all the words.

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  5. This is such a helpful post. I tend to forget small things (that make up big things with my mother), as well. I’m going to try writing everything down, as well. Thank you.
    I however remember things that happened years ago with great detail and that often haunts. More than it should, actually. But the only way out of it is to channel all that emotion into doing something productive, like multitasking.

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  6. I know what you mean about a lot of times only remembering the bad things. But I am so blessed to not have to many bad things to remember.
    On a daily basis, I’m pretty good at remembering appointments and such. My mom has to write everything down, though!

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  7. I recently started learning to meditate with an app called Headspace. On about day 3 or 4, there’s an animation short they show that compares thoughts to traffic. We can learn to sit at the roadside of our mind, acknowledge the thoughts, and let them come and go — or chase them down as they pop into our heads, some being toxic memories. I do the latter. I hope meditating will help me to be more intentional about the thoughts I chase down and also clear headspace for the people and things most important. Thank you for another great post. I enjoy your writing.

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  8. This post was interesting for me to read, since I know of someone exactly like you in this sense, and it boggles my mind how someone can be that way. Personally, I like to think my memory is good. It stores “useful” things pretty well. Others… well, it depends.

    How do you like the “writing things down” thing? Isn’t it burdensome to carry it around? Doesn’t it ruin a moment when you skip on a conversation just to run and write it down?

    Also, when I first saw the title, I swore it say “How good is your money”… what a weird mental trick…

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  9. Great post! I can remember, wen sold office supplies, that y wife would often say I have a bad memory because I would forget what we talked about the night before. I would calmly ask her if she knew the stock number of scotch tape I had a great memory at work, like you but forgot the simplest things at home. I am getting better, I think.
    I wish I had a memory like God, though. He chooses not to remember our sins, yet He remembers everything we do for Him. This is the opposite of our selective memories. He decides what He will not remember, and it’s done. How wonderful!

    Be blessed

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  10. My husband is (was?) the same way. He could remember historical events and anything for work, but I’d ask him to do something and he’d forget. I would get so angry with him, then he’d get angry with me in return. Mainly because I felt I had such better memory. After all, I valued all he said, so I’d remember it. Shouldn’t he remember what I’ve said if he valued me? During this season, I’ve realized anger isn’t a very good response to such situations. So I’ve been working on that. I’ve also realized that valuing the other person isn’t necessarily the problem—it’s just how he’s made, and that’s okay.

    Anyway, I like this post. I think a lot of us struggle with memory or have struggles with someone whose memory doesn’t work the same as ours.

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  11. Lists are an essential part of my everyday! Though not a soccer (football to you) fan, I relate my ability with baseball statistics and box scores to what you said about Man U. Knowing how well my memory works on somethings, how is it I can forget to pick up the milk on the way home?
    Another wonderful post, thank you
    Chuck

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  12. I don’t think it’s your memory at all. We all have differences – the way we think and use our brains is just one of them. I cannot remember names – that’s my thing. I have embarrassed myself terribly in public by not being able to recall name. Even someone I see regularly – sometimes their name is just gone for a while. Not sure what it is, but I have a theory. Since I’m no scientist, my theory will die with me. My theory is it has to do with fatigue of certain parts of the brain – Take my example for instance. I work in public service and meet numerous people every day. I interact with them, hear their stories, hear their complaints occasionally, and sometimes argue with them intensely. Many times this leaves me emotionally exhausted – later when someone asks me about that person, I can barely summarize the encounter. I may be full of what I’m speaking, but then again, maybe not.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Hi thx for checking out my blog. I hope you liked it and could connect to my content. I have been trying to make it more personal to connect to others and make it relatable. It can be hard to open up as a person but if someone else does it, it can encourage you to too and that’s my goal. My blog is a platform where everyone can be themselves and voice their opinion without being judged. I am glad you stumbled across it.

    If you have any feedback for me then please don’t hesitate to get in touch or tell me. xxx

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  14. Good blog for today. Memory is a scary thing. My mother and grandmother had Alzheimer so I must say I also do worry but I just pray about it. Still sometimes I amaze myself at what I forget. I do little notes or hint words when I blog so I can remember or I write things down when it crosses my mind. Today was funny for me. I took a load of clothes out to garage to wash, came back in washed a plate and turned around and the refrigerator was standing open. I asked myself when did I do that. Still haven’t figured it out. I just remember I was going to get some food and that’s it. So that tells you about my memory. I had to laugh or I would be worried 😊😊. Blessings.

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  15. I have a great memory when it comes to data and emotions. I can memorize long number sequences and remember emotions well, especially the painful ones. I have many painful ones, specifically tied to my family. I think of all the things they may have done ha they been able to with time and money. All the things they would have showed me if they only knew themselves. I have healed now but I think of that often though it is more like motivation to be that parent for my two boys now. I love that you saw the hurt in her eyes and I believe your acknowledgment of that rather than embarrassed anger helps her be compassionate to you.

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  16. I have to keep lists of what I need or want to do. I’ve always been forgetful, but my husband wasn’t. Now that he is older, he is just as forgetful as I am. It has given him more patience for me. Lol

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  17. I also have selective memory. I forget so much that means a lot to me. Which really bugs me. Memory is an emotional thing. And stress limits memory. Even the less obvious stress like emotional stress that is happening deep inside you. At least I think I read that. 🙂 I write a lot to not lose everything. In a notebook. In a blog. I keep a kid diary to keep track of the important things about my children. And I have a long list of notes on my phone so I don’t lose interesting ideas.

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  18. Thank you for visiting my blog and giving me the opportunity to read parts of yours. It is quite courageous of you to share your vulnerability and allow others into your life. You are taking care of yourself but doing just those two things.

    It is also important to know when we have traumatic experiences, the prefrontal cortex shuts down so that we have the ability to fight or flee the event. With repeated trauma and we can’t escape, we shut down (freeze).

    The brain stays that way until we can learn ways to regulate our hyper-viligent state of mind. Mindfulness meditation, staying in the present moment, focusing only on this moment and then the next from moment to moment is one way. When worry arises bring your mind back to the present. Do it in a loving, gentle and kind way as if you are talking to an innocent child.

    Stress and anxiety diminishes cognition functioning and short-term memory but with practice of mindfulness you can regain your memory and function just as you were when you were younger.

    Wishing you much peace and ease.

    April

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  19. I have a horrible memory. I fail tests most of the time because I just forget and I start to stress. My ex husband had photographic memory and he nailed every dang test without studying and I studied for about 5 hours!
    I will have to write down a “conformation code” that I just said out loud a second ago because I will just forget it a second later. I started to play memory game apps to help…It is working…slowly 😂😁

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