I Don't Remember
One of the common issues suffered by those of us with brain injuries is that of memory. This may be poor memory in general, or more specific memory problems (i.e. short-term memory is bad, long-term is OK, memory for names is poor but memory for places, dates and times are OK, etc). Luckily, my memory is pretty good. Well, I thought so. Stupidly, I didn’t factor into my cockiness the fact that, if you suffer from poor memory, you may not remember that you suffer from poor memory. DOH!
On that note, I have a story for you. One of the tasks I did when starting this Brain Attack project, was to get my music files in order. The creative part of music making is diametrically opposed to an orderly approach to music making. As an example, on record sleeves you will often find photographs of song lyrics scribbled on table napkins, odd scraps of paper and (literally) the back of cigarette packets. Not many songwriters create a searchable database in Microsoft Access. No, when the creative juices are flowing any logical thought goes out of the window. If you’re using a computer on which to compose (as nearly everyone does these days), the last thing you want is a raft of files, automatically named by the software as “Audio_0001” through to “Audio_0949”, all neatly placed in a folder automatically named by the software as “Audio Files”. Not a good place to be. I know ‘cos I’ve been there, many years ago, when learning how all this stuff works. So, you need to get organised before you get inspired.
In order to head off this potential disaster, in January this year I painstakingly created a “Brain Attack” folder on my laptop’s ‘D’ drive which contained 18 sub-folders named after all 18 tracks. (Spoiler alert – yes, there will be 18 songs on the CD!). In each sub-folder was a Cubase Project file also named after the relevant track (Cubase is the main music production software I use – think ‘PC based recording studio’). So, as well as creating the main folder, I created 18 sub-folders along with 18 files with matching names. I could then dump any interesting samples I came across (the sounds of an MRI scanner, the sounds of a human heartbeat, etc) into the appropriate folder. Similarly, if I had a musical idea, I could quickly record something in the right place and, more importantly, find it again at a later date. Think of all that searching time I’m going to save! I’m ahead of the game – brilliant! Go me!!! At the beginning of this paragraph, the more observant amongst you will have noticed that I used the word “painstakingly”. I used this word for a reason. At the time I named all these folders and files, I had an issue with my Windows 10 upgrade. When creating (or renaming) a file or folder, I only had a few seconds before Windows ‘timed itself out’ and resorted to displaying “New Folder” as the folder name, as opposed to what I had been typing (maybe something like “05 The Awakening, Part 1 – Demon Eye”). I’d get as far as “05 The Awa” and “New Folder” would appear where I was typing. Aggghhh! I resorted to typing a few characters, hitting Enter, selecting “Rename”, typing a few more characters, hitting Enter, selecting “Rename”, etc, etc. As you may imagine, it took me an inordinate amount of time to complete this task. (Footnote – I later discovered that the ‘culprit’ was my desktop setting, which I had on slide-show. Every time the picture changed on my desktop, “New Folder” would appear. I turned off the slide-show and it works perfectly now. Look, I don’t know – it’s Microsoft, innit?! Talk to Bill.)
Now, all this was done on my laptop. I am not using my main studio PC as it’s a big effort climbing the stairs and then turning all the equipment on. My laptop is downstairs and is fine for sketching out ideas at a moment’s notice. Anyway, I was looking for an old file on my laptop and couldn’t find it. I wondered if it was on my studio PC. I didn’t want to go upstairs and power up Mission Control and I then remembered I had a back-up of my studio PC on a portable hard drive. So, I plugged that in to my laptop and began rooting around for the file I was looking for. And what do I find? Yep, you guessed it, a folder called ‘Brain Attack’ with 18 sub-folders all named after the 18 songs and all containing 18 Cubase Project files named after the songs! AAAGGGHHHH!! I’ve done this already?? And yes, I had. But . . . I have absolutely no memory of it at all. Looking at the dates the files were created, I did this some 8 months earlier (on my studio PC) before I then had a wonderful, novel, time saving idea and did it all over again on my laptop which, due to the Windows 10 ‘issue’, took bloody forever and was incredibly frustrating. Even more disturbing (for me, anyway) was, upon closer inspection, I had started writing music for five or six songs. No recollection of this at all. And I had downloaded various samples (an MRI scanner, a heartbeat, some ambient background stuff) which I had safely saved in the appropriate folders. I had just done this recently (for the first time, or so I thought) on my laptop and it took ages to search and find some well recorded samples on the internet.
This is tough to face up to. Yes, we’ve all forgotten something now and again. Minor transgressions. Forgetting where the car keys are, where our glasses are, that type of thing. But to have no recollection of something that would have taken many hours work and required quite a bit of effort – that is fairly substantial and a big shock.
I guess I must have been in a bit of a state, mentally, when I originally did all this as not only have I no memory of it but the music I’d written was dreadful. Awful stuff. I mean really, really bad. Excruciating. Total garbage. The good news is that I very quickly had a load of crap in my Recycle Bin and freed up a great deal of hard drive real estate.
These blogs are similar. I write them over a period of time, jotting down thoughts and ideas. I have about 15 or so underway at the moment and when I review them, I often read stuff I have written but have no memory of writing. It’s bizarre. I know it’s me that has written what I’m reading but it’s all brand new. Now and again bits will seem familiar and I may even read nearly exactly the same thing in two different documents written a few weeks apart. It keeps the ‘surprise’ factor high, though!
All this is quite amusing unless you are trying to live through it. You believe your memory is getting better (hope springs eternal) and then you discover that you have already done what it is you’re currently spending hours doing. Trust me, it’s psychologically crippling. Everything you do after that you’re thinking, “Have I already done this?”, “If so, where is it?”, trying to second guess yourself. Talking with my wife I find my conversation is peppered with caveats like, “If I’ve already told you this, just stop me”. I understand the old grey matter has taken a bit of a bashing but to find that you are literally losing your mind is tough, to say the least. I find it also varies. I can have periods where my memory seems to be OK. Equally, I have periods when it’s shot to pieces, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. From reading FB posts from fellow survivors it appears I am not alone and this memory issue is quite common.
It’s a big challenge all this brain injury stuff.
Until next time,
“You’ll have to take me just the way that you find me”.