Those Papers

I turned 70 last November…..and we’re moving.  Change is in the air.  I feel it in October every year.  Deep Fall colors and the vitality in the crispness.  We will be out of our home of 23 years and it’s time to coalesce and discard.

I have boxes full of photocopied law review articles.  I haven’t counted them, but I’d guess they total more than 100.  They cover topics like mediation, ethics, lawyers’ well being, legal history and similar articles.  I’m going to get it all recycled.  I have no further need for them…yet, to cut them loose feels significant to me.   Those topics have been so important to me over the years.  I wrote about lawyers’ well-being for years in a column in the King County Bar Journal.  I developed and taught the first few years of a class on starting and maintaining your own law practice at U.W. Law School.  Those articles partly informed those endeavors, as well as the book I wrote, Divorce or Not: A Guide.  I guess I have held onto all those (often wonderfully written) pieces because I might write a book or article about some of those topics in the future.

But hey!  Did I say I turned 70 last November?  It has been a trip to move into this decade.  One piece of it is that I’m starting to come to terms with the reality that there are some things I’ll never do in this life. I don’t have the interest in it that I once did.  Plus, I envy the energy possessed by youth.  People have asked if I’m “retiring” and I’m bemused by that notion.  If you are lucky enough to love what you do that generates income for you, then why stop doing it?  Maybe do it less but continue the privilege of sharing part of people’s journey with them.

One of my oldest, closest friends (I met him in the 10th grade) told me that his therapist told him once, “I hold your story.”  I love that.

So….if anybody wants 100 photocopied articles on mediation, ethics, lawyers’ well being, legal history and the like, shoot me an email by September 30

and they’re yours.

Have Mercy

Now is a time that we need to look within the stillness of our hearts and find the mercy that resides there.  Since biblical times, we human beings have convinced ourselves that we can exercise our dominion over the earth – over nature.  And countless times we have been harshly, frighteningly rebuked.  Be it from volcanic explosions, storms, droughts, conflagrations of all sorts.  Life is fragile.  We are now experiencing another of mankind’s many plagues.  If we have a God, we are asking that God for mercy.  As well we should.  We all need mercy.  But if we can’t give each other mercy, how can we expect a divine force to give it?

The same is true in our most intimate relationships.  Just this past week, I heard how a couple tore each other to shreds  because they disagreed about the way to get their daughter home from college.  I heard how she needed her partner’s care because she was so scared and I heard how he needed to feel heard and not dictated to by her and not to feel erased.  I suggested the underlying pain – and need – to each of them, but they are very early in this work and it is hard, yet, to not feel frightened and defended.  They cannot gift the other with mercy, because it is such a leap – such a risk.  Each needs that from the other so wrenchingly.

Maybe this time can be a gift.  The mercy we beseech from our own almighty, we can offer our partner…and ourselves.

This is a frightening time and here in Seattle/Bellevue the losses are starting and will likely grow.  The next month or two will be unlike any of us have ever conceived of, much less experienced.  However, mankind has experienced deep loss and has recovered….with mercy.

My deepest wishes to anyone who reads this blogpost for safety, health and love in this unsettling time.  Love is the only thing that eventually saves us.

Returning to the Blog

This blog has been a real story for me.  i enjoyed blogging for a few years and, for a while, I didn’t bother to look at the Comments.  Then, one night a long time age, I decided to check out the Comments.  They were stupendous!  I had never ever imagined the kinds things people were saying to me about my work.  “Wonderful blog!  I have learned very much from your offerings!”  “Excellent.  I will return to you blog in the future.”  “Etc.”

I ran to my wife and dragged her to my computer – “You have GOT to see this!”  After she read three or four comments, she was equally impressed.  It’s nice to have your partner impressed by something you’ve done.  (That’s a pretty universal sentiment right there, I’d think.)

A few days later, I decided to read more comments to get my ego up.  I mean, there were 360 of them.  (It had been a long time that I hadn’t even thought of looking at Comments.)  Down around the 10th one, I noticed the second Comment that said, “Wonderful blog!  I have learned very much from your offerings!”  Hmm.  Not such a great sign.  So I did a search for the phrase “Wonderful blog!” and something like 25 of the Comments were identical.  Then I started searching other phrases.  Every time I got a handful (or a basket-full) of the same phrase (mostly from businesses who were trying to manufacture traffic, I deleted the Comments.  At the end, I was left with exactly zero original replies to my comments.  Zero.  My wife and I laughed about that for a long time.  Oh well, lessons learned.

But, I began to wonder if anyone read my blogs and if nobody did, I figured I’d put my energy into other stuff.  (Plus, in the very beginning, I had used a photo of a golf ball going into the cup to illustrate one blog post and 5 years later I got a letter from a law firm saying I had violated somebody’s copyright and, of course I had, without thinking about it, and suddenly I was paying a few hundred dollars I hadn’t anticipated.  Thus does the world of blogging erect hazards to the unsuspecting.)  But, back to the Comments – I eased off on my posts – my practice was doing fine and generating Google traffic with “new content” didn’t seem worth the effort for the reward achieved.  I seem to be doing fine without having people see me on Page One of a Google search of, say, “Bellevue Mediators” or “Couples Therapist” or “Joe Shaub.”

But then in the last month or two, I’ve had some people who come in to my office, comment (or should I say Comment) that they had read my website and blog and my brain said, “WHAT?? Someone is reading my blog?”  So, with renewed belief that maybe one person is reading this, I think I’ll start tapping these out again.  What’s the worst thing that can happen?  Maybe I’ll generate 20,000 Comments from Russian bots in the next 9 months.

Jigsaw Puzzles – Part Deux

During the holiday season over the last three years, I have begun my own little tradition of putting together a work of great art jigsaw puzzle.  The first was Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.  I did it with my daughter and her then-boyfriend and I was going to frame it when we finished and give it to him…then I lost a piece in transit!  That was a bummer, but the puzzle was loads of fun to do.  I had these insights (for me) during the puzzle construction process that I had all over again last year when I did Van Gogh’s Cafe in Arles.  (Seen here.)  And again this year while I’m working on a super hard painting by Renoir.  Like,

  1. I am so grateful for my sense of sight.  Doing a puzzle of a great master of art gets me into the fine details of what these guys were doing.  What looks on first glance like a blazing yellow awning, upon the closer examination a jigsaw puzzle requires, displays flashes of red or different shades of yellow and white.   It is a real treat for the eyes.
  2. There are times when I really, really want a piece to fit.  As hard as I will it, there’s just no fit.  And I want to jam the piece in, but know that’s silly because – it doesn’t fit.  Move on.  Find the piece that fits. You’re not going to force your desired outcome.
  3. The puzzle and I are in a mano a mano competition.  I am trying to fit the pieces together and the puzzle frustrates my efforts.  I put a piece where I know it will fit – and it doesn’t.  “You won that one, puzzle.”  Then I find the piece that fits, and popping it in place is just so satisfying.  “Gotcha!”   In the beginning, the puzzle has its greatest advantage.  No piece is fit together.  I’ve got to figure out where each of these different colored and shaped pieces go.  The process is methodical and slow.  The puzzle laughs  at me.  But ever so slowly, the pieces fall into place and the shapes make the puzzle a little easier – until, finally, I pop in the last piece.  “Good game, puzzle.”  It feels like a competition.  A friendly competition.

I am now done for the holidays.  My Renoir painting is only about 10% finished.  I have slid it onto a board and put it under my bed….until next Thanksgiving.  And then it’s you and me, puzzle.  Just you and me.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Well, well, well.  It has been a long time since my last post.  I am proud to say that my last blog, back in June of 2016, was instrumental in the wave of votes that kept Donald Trump out of the White House.  Imagine the disaster that would have been.  By now, he probably would have lowered the level of public discourse with his comments and tweets that….oh, who knows…he’d probably have retweeted anti-Muslim hate videos and supported a conservative pedophile for Senate.  Well, all I can say is, “You’re welcome.”

So how have I been spending the last year and a half?  Pretty much the same as before, but after working on my book, I was kind of written out for a while.  Something I have been doing most recently is working on a jigsaw puzzle of Van Gogh’s lovely painting of a Paris cafe at night.  Three thoughts accompany me as I slowly construct the puzzle from the thousand pieces that started as a pile on my table.

First thought: If you want to become awed and amazed by an artist’s work with color, get a jigsaw puzzle of their work.  Each little piece is just a splash of one or a number of colors.  Gazing at the piece alone, you can never quite gather what it depicts.  However, when I insert the splash of colors into its rightful place, the greater image materializes.  Working such a puzzle allows me to walk with the artist in his own creative process and, with a guy like Van Gogh, note how quickly he must have created a deeply evocative image with just a few brush strokes.  Try it.  It is very relaxing.

Second thought: If you want to deepen your Myers-Briggs Sensing function (or simply satisfy its needs), work a jigsaw puzzle.  First, it is a feast for the senses – more specifically, vision.  I have said to myself many, many times during the past few weeks how blessed I am to have sight, so I can enjoy this process.  Also, the careful organization that a jigsaw puzzle requires promotes the strengths of Sensing.  Detail, care, organization – all are there to be massaged.  Last night I took all the orange and golden pieces and set to work on the middle portion of the picture.  I was so happy to have the available pieces right there in front of me for easy pickins.

Third thought: Many times, I would take a piece that looked like it belonged right there, only to find that it was too big for the space provided.  There was a part of me that wanted to jam it in so it would fit.  But obviously, you can’t do that.  This put me in mind of people who willfully refuse to see what is right there in front of them and insist on jamming a piece into place that manifestly does not belong.  Hmm, seems like I started this post with just this topic!  Anit-abortion pedophile for Senate, anybody?

It’s Summer! Time to Speak Out

My goodness!  I looked at the date of my last post and see I’ve been asleep at the wheel for a while.  Well, Spring has been lovely here in the Northwest.  It comes earlier every year – buds sprouting in February are lovely, and a warning of more dramatic changes to come.  We are also in a political season, spun so tight  and amped to such volume that it invades every corner or our psyches.  Do therapists have a responsibility to engage politically, or should we keep silent, so as not to offend or distress those we are pledged to support?  That is an important question which has found airing in forums from the New York Times to a noted therapists’ own web site.Notrump

In March, the New York Times ran an essay encouraging psychotherapists not to disregard the social and economic stresses (and injustices) suffered by their clients.  It is entitled Why Therapists Should Talk Politics and it is linked here.  Turning our gaze to the Midwest, we come to William Doherty,  a remarkable man who I have known for years as one of America’s deans of marital therapy.  His classic Take Back Your Marriage is an oft-recommended book to my clients.  I recently came upon an effort by Doherty and others at University of Minnesota, where he has taught for years, to promote social responsibility and healing in the Citizen Professional Center.  Their efforts are wide and inspiring (well, to me) and include Balance4Success which describes its mission as: This initiative (started in 2005) involves parents in Apple Valley and nearby suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul organizing with a mission to liberate their kids from out of control sports schedules and to change the culture of hyper-competitive childhood by replacing busyness with balance. Other efforts include: STORKS: Sisters Together  in Overachieving Raising Kids which describes itself as targeting at-risk urban single pregnant teens in North Minneapolis. Its mission is to promote healthy child development in children with teenage mothers and to provide community support for young single mothers and Baby Boomers for Balanced Health Care which describes its mission as follows: This group of citizen Baby Boomers believes that out-of-control health care spending will bankrupt our country unless we all take responsibility for changing how we think about and use health care.

Doherty recently began a movement among mental health professionals to stand up to and speak out against the threat of Trumpism.  The Citizen Therapist site is here.  it contains a manifesto which therapists throughout the country are invited to endorse.  It states quite clearly that Trumpism:

  • Is antithetical to everything we stand for as therapists
  • Is inconsistent with democracy, with the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and with emotionally healthy living
  • Promotes hyper-masculinity, public hostility, the cult of the Strong Man, and the denigration of women
  • Presents a threat beyond a single election; the next demagogue may be less outrageous- and thus even more dangerous

I have signed this manifesto and joined a growing number of therapists throughout the country saying firmly that I reject the message, tone and “solutions” by the man who wants to ban entry to this country of people based on their faith; who wants to wall us off from the world and promises chaos and unbridled hatred in the name of fighting “political correctness” and prays on our fears.

I have long been a lover of American History.  In our nearly 250 years, this country has been the home of intense debate between the left and the right – between Federalists and Republicans, free market advocates and those who promote more government oversight, international interventionists and isolationists…and so many more.  However, the toxicity of our public discourse has currently been embodied in Donald Trump.  It should be rejected.

Love and Fear

I’m going to be spending a week at this beautiful spot next week – away from the incessant, assaultive  demands of electronics and media.  I know I’ll laugh at myself the first time my friend, David, and I have a discussion about something and I’ll wonder, “Who was it that said that?” and I’ll reach f025or my phone to Google the answer and then realize that this is exactly why I was there in the first place – not to be near a cell phone tower.  I know what books I’ll bring with me and I’m planning the menus for the five nights.  Maybe the best thing about camping is how everything tastes great – franks and beans…you name it.  One thing that I will welcome next week is a respite from the aura of fear that has descended like a thick, gray blanket on our public consciousness.

Public fear is much like the private fear I see in my office on a daily basis.  I am convinced that the driving force that unsettles so many marriages and intimate relationships is quite simply – fear.  It may be the fear of something concrete and nameable.  However, usually what I observe is more something that lies deeper within us.  When that attachment bond – upon which our inner security seems to depend – is shaken – is cast into serious doubt – we shift into a desperate, often ragged, attempt to regain that safety.  This comes in many forms.  I have seen these efforts expressed as rage, as utter abandonment hijacks one person’s well-being.  I have seen it, as well, in the silent withdrawal of the partner who, like Boticelli’s St. Sebastian, feels riddled with the arrows of criticism and unhappiness aimed at them by their partner.  One thing is certain.  The intensity of the fear is directly proportional to the level of anger, judgment or withdrawal.  When we are fearful, we react.  Our only goal at that moment is safety.  Abraham Maslow, in his famous Hierarchy of Needs, identified “safety” as a primary need, after basic physiological sustenance.  If we are starving, the only thing we need – that which dominates and overwhelms our consciousness – is food.  That need being satisfied, we are able to summon the psychological resources to seek out higher needs, which ends with living the highest expression of ourself in this life.  However, second in Maslow’s pyramid is “safety” and, just as with food and shelter, if this need is threatened, we will mobilize all we have available to us to satisfy that need.  Only when the anxiety – the fear – is abated, can we turn to higher, better, ends.  On the personal level, this includes listening and empathizing with the worries and fears of our partner.  On a broader level, it is building a more inclusive and tolerant society.

Years ago I heard a colleague share what seemed at the time to be an overly simplistic personal equation. That was my mistake.  He said, “We are motivated either by love or fear.  Fear distances us from love, but love, when embraced, will vanquish fear.”  This love isn’t simply sexual love or being “in love.” It is an opening of our heart to another person.  It is the certainty that whatever another person may need, fundamentally, we have inside of us to provide.  We have the power – the capacity – to ease another’s pain – and their fear.  When I see that realization gleam in the eye of an individual in relationship distress, that distress always lessens.  I witness love conquering fear.  I’m going to mull on that further in the mountains next week, away from the noxious fog of fear that is being pumped into our society during this terribly overheated election year.

On Vulnerability, Safety and Cats

catFirst, let me be clear, I am a dog person.  I am allergic to cats and never understood them.  I tip my cap to the feline fans.  Why do I mention this?  Read on and you will understand.

So much can be gained through the safety engendered by personal disclosure.  It is undeniable that when we get to know another person, we are less likely to succumb to stereotypes and projections of what is going on inside of them.  In his excellent book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni notes that the first step towards establishing a cohesive team is the establishment of trust.  He tells us that the barrier to this trust is the need to appear invulnerable.  The solution: Display some vulnerability.  How to do this?

Well, in the work-world an abundance of vulnerability is unwise and unnecessary.  Yet, even such seemingly bland disclosures as where one grew up and their number of siblings can be a low-risk and valuable instrument of bonding.  I recently was privileged to run a retreat for a local collaborative group and that simple “share” opened the door to later, much more significant personal disclosures about the relationships within the group.  In Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, the real breakthroughs of connection come when enough safety has been created as a platform, allowing the individuals to open up long withheld (often even from themselves) yearnings and vulnerabilities.  These, of course will go quite a bit deeper than those aforesaid workplace disclosures.

Some months ago the New York Times ran a story about a study by psychologist Arthur Aron, which held that “sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure” deepened relationships.  In order to demonstrate the power of this hypothesis, Aron crated 36 questions which he said were guaranteed to jump-start the deepening of intimacy in any relationship.  They are in three clusters, each diving a bit deeper than the one before.  Cluster 1 Questions include: Would you like to be famous?  In what way? and Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?  Why?  Cluster 2 Questions include: What is your most treasured memory?  and  How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?  Cluster 3 Questions include: Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ______” and What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?   Here is the article and those 36 questions.

Now AS FOR CATS.  Clearly, this does not work only for human relationships as you can clearly see in this YouTube video.

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All

When I was a kid (back in the 50’s and 60’s) the United States was a more unabashedly Christian country.  Christmas was universally celebrated and “Merry Christmas” was on almost everybody’s lips.  Nobody was saying “Happy Holidays” in an effort to be all inclusive.  As a Jewish kid,xmastree2 I’ve got to say, I wasn’t particularly offended or confused by the emphasis.  I was in a kids’ choir and loved singing those gorgeous carols.  The lights were magical!

I particularly loved the general good feeling that shone through the holiday – probably best reflected in the conversion of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  The magic of that time was all about open-heartedness,  kindness and gratitude.  Santa was most definitely a bonus and I was, indeed, one of those acculturated Jewish kids who believed in the jolly old man whose elves made toys for kids somewhere in the North Pole.  I recently reviewed the many Jewish holidays to see if any one of them so explicitly trumpets goodwill to all men in quite the same way and was unable to find one.  The many holidays honor parts of our history, the seasons, the beginning of the annual cycle of reading the Torah and, of course the High Holy Days in which we are urged to look deep inside and cleanse our souls, seek forgiveness and turn the page for a coming year.  One theme for almost all Jewish holidays I heard from a friend a few years ago, which is perfect, goes, “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!”  Hanukkah is a very minor Jewish holiday and commemorates a time, more than 2,000 years ago in which the Jewish people were at risk of being absorbed into a hostile dominant culture.  A band of rebels were able to wrest away their people’s freedom.  It’s pretty much the same theme as the more major celebrations of Purim and Passover.  Somehow, American Jews long ago converted this into a more significant celebration so their kids didn’t have to feel left out in all the Christmas gift-giving…but Hanukkah is not Christmas.

I think of the “Holidays” as bounded by Thanksgiving and Christmas – both times when we gather with those we love (and who love us) and breathe in the warmth of care and community.  For those of us who feel isolated and adrift during this time, my hope and prayer for you is that you can, step-by-step, heal, renew or create the bonds that may allow you to experience that care in the years ahead.  My hope is also that you find some way to give to others during this time.  You will enter the tide of humanity whose spirits join in loving-kindness and there is no better gift you can be given.  There are volunteer opportunities here.

My wish for anyone reading this is that your world is blessed with the comfort of another’s  loving heart, that you treat yourself and those around you with the gentleness reserved for a baby (which this holiday is about) and hatred, fear and violence be banished from our lives.

Thanksgiving

About 10 years ago, I wrote a column in the local King County Bar Journal about gratitude and well-being – directed (of course) at lawyers.  I happened upon it today as I was going over old files and thought I ought to post it.  I like its message and it certainly isn’t limited to lawyers:
Lincoln

GRATITUDE 

On October 3, 1863, our country was in the middle stages of a horrific civil war.  Unlike recent involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq, which touched families selectively, in that time, almost every family experienced the devastating loss of a young and vital life.  A hundred and fifty years ago, people weren’t talking about the costs of war in some theoretical sense – that crushing weight was shared universally throughout the entire society.

 And yet it was on that date, amidst this cultural trauma, which today we can scarcely imagine, that Abraham Lincoln issued of all things a “Thanksgiving Proclamation.”  He noted that, despite “a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict.”  He went on to observe that the economy was still robust and the country was growing “notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and battlefield,” and that “the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.”

 Perhaps most remarkable about this proclamation is that it came from the pen of a man who was frequently crushed by depression during most of his adult life.  But then, Lincoln seemed to understand so much on a basic intuitive level – he’s not on the five dollar bill for nothing, after all.  He saw that relief from despair may be obtained through gratitude.

 Turning to our own special plight, while we lawyers certainly cannot indulge in the conceit that our experiences mirror those at Antietam or Falujah, many of us are challenged to our core on a daily basis by the demands of the work that we do and the environment we create.  Martin Seligman, Ph.D., professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania and past-president of the A.P.A., has something to tell us about the causes of our professional unhappiness and the way out of it.

 In his recent book, Authentic Happiness (despite the rather “sweet” title this is a powerful and rigorously researched work), Seligman first describes a number of the qualities of thought which are endemic to the practice of law that seem to make us prone to pessimism and unhappiness.  These observations are consistent with a wide array of research conducted over the years at U.W., Johns Hopkins and under the auspices of the A.B.A.  These have been touched upon in past columns and I won’t belabor them here.  If you are interested, I do recommend you to the “Work and Personal Satisfaction” chapter in Seligman’s book for a particularly trenchant discussion of the challenges faced by attorneys.  For the moment, let’s take as a given that lawyers experience a depressing downward pressure on their mood and life-outlook from their education, training and practice.  Now for a way out.

 Gratitude is not a habit of mind for lawyers – nor is it a habit of conduct.  Yet, Seligman’s research has revealed, quite clearly, that a deep sense of personal well-being comes with attendance to gratitude.  This is a two-step process.  The first is simple realization of those circumstances and people for which we are deeply grateful.  It is suggested from various sources, both spiritual and secular, that we would be well-served by taking a set time out of our routine to acknowledge to ourselves what and who we are grateful for – and not only the object, but the reason. 

 For example, I am blessed to have my eleven year old daughter in my life….because when I get home from dealing with the toxicity of conflict for a living, she’s there with our beautiful golden retriever and she is so beautifully open, intelligent and fresh.   I am invariably transported to a finer place and as I sit here right now and look at her picture on my desk, I feel myself relax. 

 We so often take our health and physical well-being for granted.  I remember a moment five years ago when I was on a ladder, arranging some boxes in the attic of our home when the ladder slipped out from under me and I fell flat on my back from ceiling height.  I should by all rights have been seriously injured – but all I got was a bruise on my arm.  I don’t know what force protected me that morning – perhaps it was God almighty;  maybe it was dumb luck –  but there’s not a week that goes by that I’m not grateful for my health and moments of good fortune such as that.

 As I write this, my wonderful wife is soon to be leaving for a two week trip to Italy with  her best pal.  I’m looking forward to being Mr. Mom for a while and having alone time with our girl, but I’m going to miss the warmth and sweetness of my baby’s loving company. 

 While all of these thoughts tend to lighten the load on a daily basis, there is one more powerful step which brings the power of gratitude home.  That is the expression of gratitude.

 I went through a period when I was lazy and didn’t express my gratitude to my life’s partner.  Over time a hard-to-pinpoint coolness developed inside of me. I actually was very aware that in my preoccupation with work and striving that I was failing in the fundamental task of expressing my gratitude for the love in my life.  When I finally “snapped out of it” and began to attend to these gifts, I swear it felt like the windows were thrown open to a stuffy room and warmth began to fill our home.  This warmth not only filled our environment, the actual practice of experiencing and expressing gratitude felt healing for me, internally.  Recently, the incessant stresses of this professional calling are less wearing.  Renewal is easier.

 So here’s a suggestion.  In three weeks, those of you who are fortunate to be sitting around a table on Thanksgiving with people who have touched you, express your gratitude – openly and unabashedly.  What the heck.  If you can’t get away with that kind of behavior on Thanksgiving, when can you?  Let each person who touches you know that you are grateful for their gifts. Describe those gifts, simply and clearly.  See how it makes you feel.  My bet is that you’ll think you just gave yourself an enormous holiday gift.