We remember nothing


Leonard wants to kill the guy who murdered his wife, but a beating left him with anterograde amnesia; he can’t make new memories. So, every time he meets an important person or finds a clue that brings him a step closer to revenge, he tattoos that fact on his body. 

Memento is an incredible movie y’all. 

And maybe you can relate to Leonard. I know I can. Here is my exactly-the-same-pretty-much story.

Shortly after moving into town, I went to lunch at a fast food spot named Lola’s Chicken Shack. Sounded tasty enough. I generally trust the integrity of shacks of all sorts. 

I ordered a deluxe fried chicken burger with fries. Handled the whole sandwich like a damn professional. Felt great about my decision.

[Five minutes passes]

"Yeah I'm good with this."

[Another five minutes]

"Yea. I feel. Hm."

[Another five minutes]

“GUH. Feel bloated and heavy. And tired. HOW COULD I HAVE EVER KNOWN??!?”

I had just learned something important about myself: eating greasy fast food is fun for about nine minutes, then I feel shitty for a full afternoon. 

In fact, I’d learned this lesson roughly eight thousand times in the past decade. 

This was my Leonard moment. I could now do one of two things:

a. Forget about the whole thing, because disposable food creates disposable memories. Make the exact same mistake next weekend, or the weekend after. 

b. Write down what I ate and how I felt after. Put that note somewhere easy to find, like jusssst above my right nipple. 

(I typed this particular note into my phone tho)

I wrote to my future self*:

“That food will make you happy for four seconds and then you’ll feel crappy for a day. DON’T BELIEVE ITS LIES.”

I love the Memento approach because it accepts the reality that even with healthy hippocampi our memories are full of holes. Critical lessons slip through us like pasta water through a sieve.

You eat something that doesn’t serve your goals because it sounded so good on the menu..

Or you drink two too many mezcals and wake up with a massive hangover on Sunday morning..

And you “promise” yourself that you’ll remember this time, using your mighty human brain. 

But like Leonard, you probably won’t. And it’s not because you aren’t committed or capable or that you have a terrible memory. You have a regular memory. You genuinely want change. But like Leonard, you must respect the limits of your memory. 

Help your future self out a bit.  Start to record how what you eat makes you feel an hour later. What feels different? Do you feel more energy or less? More focus or less? It’s not a judgement, its simply an observation. A little assist to next-week-you. 

And when you spot an important lesson, go get that tattoo. You know *exactly* where to put it. 

(Pictured: My next wonderful tattoo.)

*Yes, I actually wrote this. When you treat your future self like a real person, you tend to make better decisions in the present.