Bathroom breaks

Dear President Biden,

This week has already been one of those completely full-on weeks. As I’ve done my best to navigate it as gracefully as possible, I’ve taken a lot of deep breaths and have reflected on how grateful I am for routines that I like. Thinking about likeable routines and how they end up being time, energy, and spirit-sustaining scaffolding led me to hope that you have routines you like that you stick with pretty much no matter what. I’ve seen pictures of you jogging and walking your dogs and I hope both activities are ones that you do more days than not (assuming you like doing them). Maybe you have a favorite breakfast you have most days or you enjoy your allotted number of cups of coffee (or tea???) at certain times of the day. Maybe you read for a 20 or 30 minutes before bed every night. Whatever your routines are, I hope you can lean on them when things feel like they’re shading into too much or you’re feeling worn out and need some comfort and predictability.

I also hope that you get to occasionally play hooky. I’m sure those opportunities are exceedingly rare for you in your POTUS role, but when they arise, I hope you take them. Today I was triple booked over the noon hour and had already been “on” since 6:30am so….. I ditched all of the meetings and ate my lunch very slowly. Obviously all of those meetings weren’t mandatory for me, but it did feel weird to skip all of them. I kind of think that had there been just one I would have made myself do it, but it was so absurd that there were three things competing for my attention at once that I (non-literally) threw up my hands and called “uncle” – as in too much!

Later in the afternoon I had meetings with two of my post docs and no surprise, in addition to talking about their respective research projects, we addressed “work-life balance” issues under the “professional development” umbrella. In the first of those meetings we laughed about how nuts it’s gotten that there’s no longer a reliable mid-day lunch break and, worse, we can be so jammed on back-to-back online meetings that there’s not time to pee. I hope to goodness you don’t run into these issues very often, but given that you’re probably five-ish (ten-ish?) times busier than we are, you might have to have such breaks marked in your calendar. That’s an awful thought – if that’s the case, I hope you can find a way to dial back.

In the second meeting I ‘fessed up to having skipped all three of the noon meetings I was “supposed” to attend and it was actually really helpful to this post doc in a permission-giving sort of way. She tends to push herself incredibly hard and historically hasn’t questioned the workload or expectations, instead assuming that there’s something wrong with her that she can’t always keep up. I’ve definitely shown up as very, very human before (forgetting a meeting, being slow getting something back, etc.) but I think my hooky-playing let her dig in deeper on the idea that none of us have to be perfect, we don’t have to do absolutely everything that people might want us to do, we can take care of ourselves, we should take care of ourselves, she should take care of herself.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you today. I hope you’re well and staying strong. Please be sure to lean on some good routines.

May we all be safe and sound.
May we all have routines that make us happy and content.
May we have the strength to step up and take care of ourselves.
May we accept our humanness and take those bathroom breaks.

Tracy Simpson

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