Back in the summer of 2012, New York Times writer/cartoonist Tim Kreider penned a provocative expose entitled “The Busy Trap”. In it, he lamented the ways in which “busyness” was infiltrating daily life in such a way as to impact collective psychology as well as shape the way in which decisions were made and not made. As he outlined his argument, Kreider suggested that we may be leading busy lives because we’re afraid to face ourselves. We may be leaning toward busyness because somehow, in our world, being busy makes us feel like we are good people.
In the subsequent years since “The Busy Trap,” I have often found myself reflecting on Kreider’s premise while observing myself and those around me. It does seem to me that, at times, the claim of being “so busy” is a kind of humblebrag for being important or valuable or somehow having a purpose in life. While I am not here to judge those who might be truly overwhelmingly busy, what I will say is that I, quite frankly, would prefer to be not busy and I would suggest that being not busy provides a much stronger sense of meaning and purpose in my life than the converse.
Now don’t get me wrong, my life is every bit as complicated and challenging as that of most middle-class Americans with jobs, kids, bills to pay, and more. I battle the urge to succumb to exhaustion and frustration quite regularly. However, I also make a daily attempt to escape the busy trap and I do that through running. Like others, I have spoken to many people who often say they are too busy to run, too overwhelmed to commit to regular exercise. For me, and I know I am not like everybody, I feel like I am too busy not to run.
My daily run gives my life structure, balance, and control. While the slings and arrows of daily life always throw me curveballs, my run is consistent, it’s standard, it’s always there. As long as I make the time for it, even if it’s just 20 or 30 minutes, that daily constitutional provides me with forced solitude and contemplation which in the process provides nurture and meaning to the rest of my busy, and sometimes unstructured, life.
Kreider’s ultimate thesis in “The Busy Trap” is his assertion that “Life is too short to be busy.” And, of course, we’ve all heard the old adage that nobody ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at work.” But it can be difficult to combat the busy trap if we’re not paying attention. It can be all too easy to get swept up in the piles that life presents us with and upon getting swept up we can be easily distracted. Running can provide a way out of that distraction, if even for a few minutes a day, and, in so doing, can make us untrapped.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
- Do you ever find yourself in the busy trap?
- If so… and you want to get out, how do you do it?
- Do you find that running unbusies your life or the opposite?