John Leonard an audience of one.

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familiarity

Three years ago last Saturday I was pronounced free of cancer. This post isn’t about the cancer itself - god knows I’ve written enough about that in the past - but it’s about the ease with which memory fades and the things that were important aren’t important any more.

As always, I’m diving into this post once triggered by a decent thought or potential topic. I am stringing my thoughts together as they come, so my apologies for their poor quality.

When I was ill it was my world. Nothing else mattered, but around that time I was well aware that in a few years time it would be just a blip in the past. I thought that this would be in about ten years time, but despite the fact that I still get the occasional heebie jeebies when I go for a checkup with my oncologist, I manage to surprise myself with how easy it is to forget, and get back to business as usual.

This is the usual way of things; regardless of how traumatic the experience, over time it is forgotten. I tend to react to a lot of things this way, possibly supplemented by my useless memory.

There is an old saying - “familiarity breeds contempt”. That’s not entirely accurate for me, as I don’t hold contempt for that with which I am familiar, more a sense of detachment and ignorance. In concert with my memory, which will handily drop anything that doesn’t sound a mental fire alarm every five minutes, I tend to forget about these things.

I’m getting off the topic. I wanted to consider how importance fades, and this is an offshoot of how my memory operates, blended with the relative importance of the memory - while I may well want to consider the anniversary of my being pronounced free of cancer as an important thing that deserves remembrance, my memory has already consigned it to the pile of things soon to be cleared out. The cognitive dissonance I am experiencing is an expression of the relative importance of it between two layers of my mind; the part that handles long term memory (which I have found to be somewhat unreliable) and the lesser known part that seems to modify the relative importance of any memory dependant on how much it may mean to me at any moment.

This might be partly to blame for the sensation of a task being incredibly important to me to start off with, and the associated memories making it very very important - but once the importance has disappeared through familiarity, the quality of that memory and any tasks that go along with it becomes questionable. Added to this is the sensation of disappointment that ties into the cognitive dissonance - I want to remember something because I think it’s important, but at some point in the past it’s relative importance has scaled back and the ability to recall it at will fades.

The ability to then remember it at will is unreliable, and I get disappointed that something so important a few days ago now doesn’t feel as important any more.

This exploration of emotional attachment and how my memory works is clearly a work in progress as the words above are merely a poor quality articulation of how I feel about importance of memories. Doubtless I’ll come back to it, if I think it important enough in a few days to remember to come back to it, that is.