Saturday, May 22, 2010

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Alright, folks, get ready. I'm about to let you in on just a smidge of how my brain works. It might scare you away forever, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

All my life I've "pictured" the days of the week and the months of the year in my head. I think maybe once when I was young I tried to describe this to a friend, but she looked at me as if I had lost my mind, so I never spoke of it again. Not once. Not even to my husband.

But I've always, always, always classified time visually. It just works for me.

Well, this week I feel like I've joined the real world, finally, because Emily admitted that she, too, visualizes the days of the week and the months of the year. You just have to--HAVE TO--go read this post because she explains it so much better than I do.

It's O.K. Go ahead over there for a minute. I'll wait.

I was so excited to read Emily's post that I told B about it. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind, just like my friend when I was younger. But this time I felt justified. I am not alone. If you scroll down through Emily's comments you'll see that there are all kinds of people like us who visualize time.

It's like I'm breathing a sigh of relief here. Breathe with me, will you? In. Out. In. Out. Ahhhhh. I'm not crazy!!

Anyway, just in case you didn't scroll down to read all the comments on Emily's post, here's what I told her about how I see the year and the weeks:

"My year looks more like a balloon that's laid on its side. January and December are separated by the knot in the balloon, and spring lays on the bottom (picture the balloon lying on a table). Summer is my upswing, and fall is on the top of the balloon, heading back down toward the knot. . . .

You mentioned the weeks as well. My weeks definitely have a shape. I always picture two weeks at a time, in the shape of a football. (You promise not to laugh?) The side toward me is the current week; the side farthest away from me is next week. Of course, the weeks shift position every week. And each day is a sort-of square, like the squares on a sidewalk. Like I'm walking through my weeks."

Thanks to Emily, I've learned that this "condition" is called Spacial-Sequence Synesthesia. Wikipedia has an interesting explanation.

Another article I read said that people with this "condition" also have superior memories, which actually makes me laugh because I definitely DO NOT have a superior memory. BUT, I do have this other kind of uncanny ability . . . I remember phone numbers. B is always asking me, "Hey, what's so-and-so's number?" and I can usually tell him.

And you know how I do that? For some strange reason I just visualize the number by picturing the buttons on the phone.

Emily also mentioned another type of synesthesia that involves color. I don't have that, but apparently some people associate numbers or letters with colors. Weird, I say.

So last night I was talking to my family about this. B doesn't get it at all. No surprise to me there--he's a very linear, analytical person. Maggie doesn't have it either, although she does say she sees shapes on the pages of books she reads. But as we were talking, Abby walked by and I asked her if she pictured the days of the week in her head. She kind of smiled and said, "Well, yeah. And every day has a color."


So I asked her to explain. She said, "Well, Thursday is orange."

I'm not sure I should even admit this, but I almost cried with pride and joy. Another synesthetic person in our home! Hooray!

(Kate is out of town this weekend, so I can't ask her about this, but you can be sure I will bombard her with questions as soon as she gets home. I'm guessing she has this too.)

Well, there you go. A little insight into my brain. I know, it's scary. But there it is.

Strange? Maybe. But it sure makes sense to me.

So how about you? I am dying to know--do you picture the days of the week or the months of the year? How do you see it?



  1. I love it!!!! is my strange thing. When someone tells me something is coming up on my calendar or that I need to be somewhere at a certain time, I immediately see an entire flow chart/outline unfold. I, almost instantaneously, can see what needs to happen NOW, then next, then next, then next, in order to make the last thing happen. But I really "see" it in an actual outline-flowcharty thing.

    I always thought I was crazy until my oldest brother (who is a teacher and school principal) told me he sees it the same way, and it means I had the spiritual gift of teaching...which is TRUE!!! I do!

    I don't know where he got that info, but I'll take it.

    As far as days of the week, they don't have shape, but Saturday for some reason is exponentially LONGER in my mind than any other day. And Sunday is really, really short. I wake up every Saturday feeling like I have more hours that day.

    I don't know.


  2. I don't know if I have a true synesthesia or if I was influenced by a number puzzle when I was a kid, but as a kid all my numbers had colors. I really don't think about it much anymore. But if you ask, 5 always is blue and 2 is always red. 0 is black. Just so you know. ;)

  3. Amazing! And to think I've known you all these years but never knew you were synesthesiac! You must get that "from your dad's side of the family!"

  4. Hi Shelley,
    So I never write on blogs and don't really understand this whole world but I had to comment on this because I definitely picture days, weeks, months, and seasons somewhat similarly to the way that you do although I could not explain it so concretely. It is exciting to know that other people do to and there is a name for it! I have only tried to explain it twice and both people thought I was crazy. Mine is round but definitely 3D with summer months being at the bottom, fall going up and back and Christmas right at the top. January and February drop forward and March and April are big and right in the front and bottom. The week goes ahead and slopes up through the weekend... does that make any sense?
    I also could totally relate to your post about being an introvert. I made my husband read it to understand me a little better :)
    Thanks for the bits of fun and wisdom!

  5. I just have to say I have never heard of anything like this in my entire life!

  6. Hey Emily! Glad you joined the discussion. :) Come back here anytime.

    DMS, you're probably the one I told who looked at me like I was crazy! :)

    Sandy and Amber, welcome to the club! I love your stories.

    Mom, what can I say?

  7. This is fascinating. I had no idea anyone saw things like that. I just picture 7 days at a time in my head in black and white (no color!) and have a general idea of what each day holds as I start the week. The problem with this, though, is that I never know what time of the year it is. I will often stop and have to think... is it spring or fall? May or September? I get so confused, especially the older I get as the years go faster and everything seems to run together! But the 7 days of each week, that much I have figured out!

  8. This is great news! I picture the days of the week and the months just like a normal US calendar. Sunday thru Saturday. The months in thirds...Jan, Feb & March at the top, April,May, June next and so on and so forth. This is very important to how I operate. We have a dry erase calendar that starts the week with Monday and I can't tell you how many times I'm off a day or lose track of an appointment.

    I also have this "unique" ability to remember birthdays. Just tell me your birthday once, and it's committed to memory for life. My husband is often dumbfounded by my unique "gift". He has often told me that I have austic tendencies, refering to Rain Man's ability with phone numbers. (and yes, I remember yours, April 20)

    Thanks for the diagnosis. :)


  9. Kate, you just made my day! So great to hear from you!

  10. I don't have this. But I want it! I love reading about how you all see the world!! I left a comment for Emily, too, but in case you didn't see it, I said that I read a book by Karen Ball that had a character with the color kind of synesthesia.

    I do remember things spacially - like where something was on a page. But I've always just told myself that meant I ALMOST had a photographic memory! Ha!

  11. This is fascinating. I'm primarily kinisthetic so I don't visualize time like you're describing. I'll have to consider how to convey it. Fascinating!!

  12. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this! I totally have this but didn't have a name for it until reading your post! (I have the spacial, not the color) I haven't had a chance to comment till now but I read while at my in-laws last week and got so excited; proceeded to tell them about my "gift" and got some paper and showed them how I pictured the months in my head...and was totally made fun of. Ha! But I can't even tell you how happy I am to know that I am not alone with this. My husband (who, until the in-laws, was the only one who knew about my "gift") no longer thinks I'm crazy. He sees now that he married a genius. :)

    The day after reading your post (and the one you linked) I sat down by my 4 year old son at breakfast to "test" him and I said "Henry, what color is Wednesday?"

    He looked at my like I was crazy and said "Mama, Wednesday is not a color?"

    Me: "Ok. Well, what color is the letter "H"?"

    Henry: "Mama, H can be whatever color you want it to be."

    I'll have to admit I was a little disappointed. ha!