In 1991 I started a document in my favorite word processor at the time, Nisus Writer, to catalog story ideas, internal thoughts, dream logs, etc. It ended up becoming my diary and is a fantastic catalog of the last 13 years.
Email and Snail Mail (both written on the computer and thus still around and received) are good too but far less accessible (I have pretty much all email I’ve ever sent. The first batch from 1986-1988 or so are in an old passworded archive to which I have long since forogtten the password. After that, it’s a mass of exports from just about every email program I’ve ever used. I tended to always save mail by person so at least I have the messages grouped by who they were to/from but beyond that, it’s a giant mess. I toy with the idea of writing a script which will parse through all of the various formats and normalize them into one consistent format I can use today. I have at least a few years in an old FileMaker Pro database which is a problem in that I do not have a current version of FM here to use.)
Anyway, I digress. This one document is the best catalog I have of the last 13 years. And it is a trip to read through it, something I do every few years. It’s also interesting to check my memories and see how accurate they are. Generally, my memory is pretty accurate. Usually it’s just details that I’ve lost. (Though, in one case I rememebered a relationship ending because I moved too fast and scared a woman away. Turns out that while, yes, I did move a bit fast, we talked it out and she decided she wanted to give it a go and it was me who decided that I didn’t like how fast I was going and decided that this wasn’t a good idea for me.)
The best part about this document is that it fills in what I have forgotten about how I met my wife and those first few critical dates and those first few weeks. Ann’s still asleep upstairs (it’s her turn to sleep in, I got to do it yesterday) and Jack and I are downstairs watching Sesame Street together while I’m reading my past. I said “Hey Jack! Look, it’s the story of how I met Mommy.” I think that concept was too weird for him. He just looked at me for a minute and then showed me something with his toys.
Most infuriating is an entry from about 10 years ago (almost exactly) in which I recounted a conversation with my friend Molly: “But today we were talking about relationships and she wrote that I