If you’ve seen Disney/Pixar’s animated film Inside Out, I imagine you’ve at least wondered for a minute about what all the colorful spheres of locked away memories might look like in your own mind or what your own stylized characters of Joy-Sadness-Anger-Disgust-Fear would look like if they were at the controls in your brain! (If you haven’t seen it, I promise I’m not spoiling anything and I hope you put it on your list of to-sees!)
In addition to loving that an animated movie took on the task of bringing emotions to life on screen, I love the ways it imaginatively explored the role of memory in a child’s development. It has only left me wishing that an Inside Out 2, 3, and 4 were coming down the pike to tackle these same themes in other seasons of life!
Memory, in particular, is one of the most under-recognized yet most powerful things in the human experience and that certainly doesn’t cease to be the case when we’re all grown up.
In recent years, I’ve been thinking a lot about memory in my own life — how my memory is evolving as I age — how I’m seeing particular memories through different light — and how I’ve lost some of the details of treasured memories that used to seem so crisp. Especially, I’ve found as the days zip by, it feels like too many little moments in my life slip through into the forgotten abyss in ways that my eleven year-old self would have never let fly!
Taking Care of the Memories
When my husband and I were first dating, everything felt like a blur, as new love has a way of doing. And I didn’t like it! (the blur not the new love, obviously)
I wanted to hold onto the days, to savor them! So, we decided then that we would be intentional about making the days count and remembering them together too. We’d try our best to appreciate the days as they come and go. To take stock of them. And to take care of the memories that come with them.
To this end, he gave me a little blue one-line-a-day journal for Christmas the year before our wedding. It has a small lined space to write a snapshot memory of each day, for five years. It’s part of a lovely series of One Line A Day books published by Chronicle Books. AND it’s the perfect journal for someone like me because I am sooooo bad at “journaling” as a daily activity. The beauty of this is that the most I have to come up with is 2 square inches of things to say!
Fun fact: when watching Ken Burns’ documentary series “The Roosevelts” I noticed FDR had the very same style of a five-year, line-a-day journal as a young man.
In addition to being fun to look back to see what we were doing on a particular day two years ago, it’s also been a helpful way to gain perspective about decisions we’ve made, or things we were mulling over but were too close to the event to see the bigger picture. It’s even been great to jog my memory about what we were eating last fall or summer when we are feeling uninspired in the kitchen!
And now that we’ve lived in three different cities since we’ve gotten married, I love that sprinkled throughout this book are a record of the more mundane details of life, like the names of the grocery stores we shopped at or the trains we took to get around. They are the littlest of things, but things that likely would have faded more quickly from my memory otherwise.
It does take some commitment to keep up our little book, but I am so glad it is now a part of my daily rhythm.
If You’d Like to Start Keeping Your Own
I realize this idea may sound daunting and won’t be for everyone – but if it sounds intriguing to you, here are some things I’ve learned from keeping my line-a-day book the past few years:
- Commit to recording a verbal snapshot every day, BUT don’t make it a monumental task that turns it into a chore. You don’t have to write a Pulitzer Prize winning paragraph. Some days you might have time for one word and that’s just fine. But in a few years when you look back and read “Car battery died. We had a picnic waiting for help” it will prompt the full story in your mind.
- Some days when nothing noteworthy comes to mind, I will jot down a current event in the news that I’ve been following, a song lyric that’s been in my head, or even something from a tv show we’ve been watching. It’s kind of like a verbal time capsule.
- When possible, record in specific. It will be fun for you (and if you have kids and grandkids potentially) to look back and know what kind of cake you liked to have for your birthday, or the model of car you bought, or the diner you stopped at on vacation. And record in specific little ways that other people have cared for you, such as when your roommate took out the trash when it was your turn, or when your husband made you your favorite dinner while you took a nap. It’s a way to record love in the little, meaningful ways.
- When life is feeling a little heavy — or particularly when there is tension in your significant relationships and it colors the whole day — I have found that one way to mark that day is with a quote from a book, a scripture verse, or even a prayer that represents how I hope there will be resolution or light at the end of the tunnel. Because, let’s be honest, there are going to be days.
- If you miss a few days, don’t despair. It’s still worth keeping on! One way you can keep up, especially if you are out of town and don’t bring your book with you, is keep a note on your phone. Sometimes if I miss a day, I can jog my memory by looking back at text messages or emails. But either way, the main thing is to just keep jotting down memories while they are fresh.
Another fun fact: FDR missed some days.
After you’ve been recording the days for a while, take some time, either at the beginning of a new year, or perhaps an anniversary to flip through the book with your family or friends or whoever are subjects in your memory book. Shared memories create meaningful connections between people, and this is one way you can make sure those memories don’t slip through the cracks.
A Happy New Year!
A lot can happen in a year. If you are a human who has just finished up another calendar year, I am 100% positive that there have been some challenging things and some wonderful things in some proportion this year. My hope for you at the close of 2015 is that you will have some time to reflect on it all, to pause in gratitude for all the good stuff, to grieve the losses if that still needs to happen, to laugh at the things that were ridiculous, and to gather up some of the memories you want to take with you from this trip around the sun.
May you have a hopeful and happy New Year, friends!