03/28/2012 01:19 pm ET Updated May 28, 2012

Redefining Time in the Age of Reinvention

Aside from the people closest to us our deepest relationship is with time. Time, in all its moods and disguises. Time is always there, as a constant reminder, looking up at us from the digital communication devices carried in our hands, and, in the back of our minds and in our daily plans, if not our weekly planners.

Over the past several years, during the Great Recession, people have had to develop new coping skills, strategies, and perspectives. Too much time on their hands and not enough cash flow has been the central problem for millions. For some, this forced introspection and time to reassess has been a gift of sorts, but for many more -- having an abundance of time on their hands isn't what they wanted, needed, or desired. Lack of work has equaled lack of purpose. The times we've lived through have meant hard times for too many, as if our country had sentenced whole segments of the population to an unseen prison, where citizens feel a lack of worth and are unable to be fully engaged in their own culture, but just spend their days marking time on the wall. A vast segment of We the People just want to begin spending time at work, and then breathe a sigh of relief when a steady paycheck arrives again.

Time can feel close-up and annoying or faraway and never-arriving. Time can stand in front of you and block your passage -- a concrete wall topped with barbed wire. And time can be stretched out, far ahead of you on a meandering country road, tossing rocks in weeds and giving you a whole day to discover what's around the next bend. On any given day, time is a factor, a friend, a motivator, a problem, or a distant star.

When time first slams a body blow of reality into us, it feels like time holds a grudge against us. When a major upheaval hits, time slows to a crawl and life is experienced in slow motion, as if your own body is ambivalent about being alive after the loss of a loved one or a way of life. Time can wipe the floor with us and wipe us out. In the Great Recession, people have had to accept hard endings much sooner than they'd expected. From this dark time we've all had to endure, we've been pushed against the wall and have learned and relearned how to gather all our internal resources, let our wounds mend until we are a worthy opponent once again, and get back into the ring and do battle with time.

Time adds order to our days. It keeps everything from jumbling together and happening all at once, like a multi-car pile-up accompanied by a late-Coltrane solo. Time knows it has a tight hold on our lives, and not everyone can break free and catch a break and live in those uplifting moments that define lives, and sometimes whole generations.

When time is on your side, it can feel like you're floating serenely above the whole scene, using your focused mind to shift your direction. While you have time, you've decided to move ahead. Start a business. Get in shape. Begin writing the book that's inside you. Move to another city. Take the trip you've been thinking about taking for years. Shift to another career, one you've been considering for the past decade. Then it all moves quicker. Time is your best buddy, and it's going to lead you to a well-spring of ideas that you've been chasing for a while, or maybe you never knew existed. If something tries to distract you, it becomes see-through, inconsequential. You're in the flow, and the wind is at your back. On certain days, you're connected to the river of time and stratospheric ideas are easily within reach. You can feel the lift inside, and it finally seems like you have time to reinvent a life.