I’m obsessed with capturing memories and I’ve been like this for as long as I can…well…remember. I take pictures of almost every moment possible and I’ve been journaling my entire adult life. I also have journals for all my kids that I started when Greg and I found out that I was pregnant with each of them. I didn’t want to forget or miss a minute of their lives. I typically focus on the emotions in a given time period or scenario but I try to capture dates and details as much as possible. Over time I have been less consistent in keeping up with them but I do my best. Social media changed the game for me and I use it constantly to help in my quest to document life, specifically Facebook for my personal story. I do enjoy sharing the adventures we have as a family, both big and small, but the main reason I document so much online is to create “My Social Book” which is a hardcover book with every post I’ve put on Facebook for that year. I have a book for every year since 2009, which is when I joined the site. My kids and their friends enjoy looking through these books now and I hope that will only matter more as time goes on. I keep memory boxes for everyone in the family. The kids have trunks so they can toss all their awards, photos, notes, art, and special assignments into them for future reminiscing. They usually aren’t concerned about keeping much so I often put things that I think are special in the box for them because I know it might matter later. I love to watch their faces light up when they riffle through them and find that unexpected treasure. Even this blog is a way for me to capture what I’m thinking and what’s happening with my life right now.
But when I look at all of these different ways I capture memories it does feel a bit obsessive. I often recognize those moments when I’m so busy taking a picture that I’m missing out on the overall moment itself. It’s hard for me to just relax and enjoy a special event because I’m thinking, “I really need to document this!” I have thought a lot about why I feel the need to capture so much and I think there are a few reasons. For one, I’ve always struggled with my memory. I have very few clear memories as a child or even as late as my twenties. I’ve struggled with my memory in general, which made school very difficult and sometimes my work and relationships. I talked to my Mom when I was in high school about my concern with my memory and she bought me these memory tapes to try and support my development. They did help a little because they taught me about using association to remember facts, names, and dates. The best way I know how to describe my issue is this; it’s like my filing system is busted. I know it’s in there but I can’t seem to easily retrieve it. I do enjoy learning about people so I’m very intentional about being present in conversations. I do my best to limit distractions and really listen to someone when they are speaking to me, especially when they are sharing something difficult and vulnerable. Typically I walk away from those conversations feeling more connected to that person and having a better sense of who they are. But if you ask me a week from that moment what the details were, the chances are that 9 times out of 10 I won’t be able to retrieve many of them. This has caused a lot of frustration for me. I’ve learned to write everything down to combat the issue. Professionally I keep notes on everyone I have an ongoing relationship with so that I can capture the details they have shared with me. Before going into a conversation I might review the notes to spark some memories of past dialog. In my role at work I run a lot of workshops and office meetings and I’m always concerned I will forget someone or something that should be at the forefront of my mind. I’m blessed to have people share a lot of themselves and their lives with me and when I don’t have it top of mind I’m afraid they will feel like they don’t matter. So I do my best before going on a visit to scan the names of every employee to help me put faces with names when I get there. I also look back on any notes I may have on anyone I’m going to see to jog my memory. I write everything down in my work journal, this helps me process information and also provides a reference to conversations. I write the date in every entry with the name of the person I’m talking with. I’ve built systems to overcome this issue but it takes extra work for sure. I always envy those that can easily recall information and I try to partner with them during any trivia game;-)
My parents did capture a lot of memories in pictures and I’m so grateful for that. They also used audio tapes to record our Christmas mornings and I loved listening to everyone’s voices as we managed the chaos of that moment. All those pictures that they took have helped me remember things that feel so tucked away in my mind that they would be lost for good without the help of a photograph. But I think if I’m getting at the heart of why I want to capture all of these moments it has to do with my Dad. I think that losing him in my early twenties has shaped this obsession. I was just getting to know my Dad and never really had the opportunity to be an adult with him, so I missed out on really understanding who he was. Outside of many childhood photographs and a few dozen handwritten letters (thank God for them) I only have what I can remember, and that is very little. This picture of my Dad, brother and me in the mountains with our dog Misty has reinforced the “mountain man” persona that comes to mind when I think about my Dad. But he was so much more than that, and I wish I could have more insight into his mind, his beliefs, and his heart. I don’t think any of us are as simple as what people see in moments which is why I love capturing so much over many years. Watching people change and grow is an amazing process.
So then there’s fear, this is most likely the key driver in my obsession to document my life. I watched my grandmother struggle with dementia and now I’m losing my own Mom to this terrible disease. There’s so much “forgetting” and it’s scary to watch as she can’t comprehend exactly what’s happening. She understands that she’s getting confused and forgetting some things but can’t tell the difference of what she’s remembering correctly. It’s terrifying. I don’t know what life has in store for me. I can only hope that I’ll be here for many years to connect with my family and friends and continue to enjoy and capture a million more moments…and remember many of them. No matter how much time I have I do want to leave behind something that will help those I love to understand who I am and what I truly care about. If they were to look at the tens of thousands of pictures and the hundreds of thousands of words what I hope they’ll see is how much I cared about each of them. The pictures are only a little bit for me, they are mostly for them. I imagine one day when my kids are grown and have families of their own they may want to look back and fill in their own blanks as we all do and maybe all my “remembering” now will help just a little. In my quest to be the best version of myself I do want to be even more present and in the moment but I can’t promise that I won’t have that iPhone and pen ready to do the memorizing for me.