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Center for Enlightened Leadership

The 102nd Floor
By Kathleen Alfiero

  Kathleen Alfiero

Kathleen Alfiero

There was a recurring sketch in the mid-1980s on “Saturday Night Live” in which Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest played a couple of everyday guys named Willie and Frankie. 

Willie says to Frankie,  “You know what I hate? The other day I took one of those…”

Frankie responds, “Six-inch replicas of the Empire State Building?”

“Yeah!” says Willie. “And I shoved it up my nose, you know? Just to see how far I could get it to go?”

“Way up there to the 95th floor?” responds Frankie.

“Yeah,” Willie answers with a squeamish look. “Then I took one of those…”

“Ballpeen hammers?”

“Yeah,” says Willie, “and I gave it a few whacks there. Boy, I tell ya, that really hurt.”

“Sounds painful,” agrees Frankie.

“I hate when that happens,” Willie declares in his nasal voice.

Week after week these two hilarious comedians made light of self-inflicted pain. They were masterful. Our entire family can still recite most of those sketches.

We often describe pain as something that comes at us instead of from us. These two guys found universal truths in the painful things that we (usually unintentionally) bring on ourselves.

I was born with a quest to understand why we’ve come to this earth. I listen to recordings about how to be uplifting and positive, I have studied religions, majored in psychology, been certified in Human Dynamics, and participated in some unusual things on my spiritual journey.

I’ve always been aware of the…unique nature of some of my pursuits, but never more so than the time I went fire-walking. In the end, I was the only one there who stood in front of the coals and did not walk across them. I had planned to glide over them with cool grace! Boy, did that tick me off!

Afterward, the leader instructed me to write on a little piece of paper, “I can always trust my inner guidance,” and stick it on the mirror over my sink. Well, it’s a nice thought, but that darn quote stayed in my bathroom for years and only kept reminding me the opposite of what it was meant to—that I’m the one who always chickens out! It wasn’t until years later that I really got the message that, no, really, I can trust my inner guidance.

This past year I had a difficult time remembering that everything always works out for me. I didn’t buy into the 2012-end-of-the-world thing, but many aspects of my life felt painfully uncomfortable and uncertain, to the degree that I at least started to question whether the Mayans were somehow onto something.

Not long into the year, I felt criticized and judged by someone, and it hit me hard. Boy, did I take it personally! Like a domino effect, I began to feel confused and more and more frustrated about where to turn with my great ideas about my career dreams (using positive media to affect education). Overall, I felt vulnerable and shaky much of the time.

Because I know that we create our own reality, I was willing to see that I had a crack in my belief system that exposed my lack of self-appreciation: the root of my troubles.

I started to re-focus myself and pay more attention to how I felt (especially when I was feeling bad); though some days were harder than others, I allowed the things that were bothering me to lead me to do some important work. That work consisted primarily of finding the way to feeling complete self-love and letting go of any blame I held for myself and others. I started to trust that I was exactly where I needed to be.

For a while, I was like Frankie and Willie. I kept making things worse by hammering away at myself in my mind about all the things that were wrong. I knew better but I couldn’t stop doing it. Like those funny guys, it was as if I was saying over and over again, “You know what I hate?” I often felt as if I had my own personal replica of the Empire State Building pushed up my nostrils; instead of stopping at the 95th floor, however, I got out my ballpeen hammer and went right up to the top floor, the 102nd!

The good news: there are always two sides to every coin. Nature always seeks a balance, so during the same time that I felt awful, I also experienced feelings of joy, lightheartedness, and eagerness about all the goodness that was coming my way. I even had feelings of exhilaration from truly getting that I had nothing to fear and that I am enough.

I regained my sense of humor. I appropriated a funny line from the movie Airplane: “Looks like I picked the wrong year to quit sniffing glue!” Saying that out loud helped me to laugh again.

I got some more positive momentum going. I thought about how magnificent we all are and told myself that I was not the exception. My highest self enlightened me, reminding me that:

  • We are all worthy.
  • It is more important to understand than to be understood.
  • When we stay true to who we are, we will not be concerned about what anyone else thinks of us.
  • When we focus on loving others instead of worrying about being loved, we will be loved.
  • When we embrace the challenges we draw to ourselves, we are more likely to find clarity about what we want in life.
  • Fear sets us free when we believe that we are invincible.
  • We are where we are. No mistakes. No shame. No blame.
  • When I keep up with my highest self, that part of me that becomes wiser and wiser with my life experiences, I shorten the gap between what I know and how I’m thinking and behaving.
  • I can always choose to transcend my challenges by appreciating how they help me to be who I am.

I’m happy to report that I breathe lighter now. I allow clusters of positive thoughts to swirl more often into my experience. I know more fully that I am not alone and, if I were to be alone, I would survive.

I appreciate my life. I am married to a remarkable, precious, brilliant man: Nick, whom I love deeply. I have a son, Rian, who teaches me how to be. There are no words to describe my love for him. I have a lovely new daughter-in-law, Whitney, who is beautiful inside and out and who adds delight to my life; a dear and wise forever-friend, Maureen, who loves me unconditionally as I do her; an extended family whom I adore; plenty of people to laugh and play with; and many loved ones who have left this physical world but who support me at every turn even when I forget to ask them.

AND, no small thing to those who know me, my husband and I have our first dog! It’s a family joke about how not a dog person I’ve always been, but I listened to my inner guidance when I surprisingly said to my husband, “Let’s get a pug!” Our sweet dog’s name is Munjoy, which means “mountains of joy” to keep us on track about the choices we can make.

My true freedom lies in appreciating the contrasts I create in my life and knowing that they are invaluable in leading me to my potential. There will always be those things that seem to “happen to me,” and yet I know I’ll shoot myself in the foot again and likely even put salt on the wound. I will be okay, though, because everything always works out for me.

I feel excited and eager about life, and now I am wise enough to know that well-being is the dominant force.

This year and forever, I’m saying yes more often to my highest self—to loving me first, loving others, and loving my life!

Center for Empowered Leadership ®
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Phone: 1.609.259.7911