Do I have your attention? I need it. Are you looking yet? What if I do this? What if I do that? What if I do everything in my power to persuade you to tell me I am special, so I could maybe, JUST MAYBE, start to convince myself?…would jazz hands work?
This week, we are highlighting someone who, at a younger age, would have basked in this amount of recognition like it was the first time she had ever seen the sun. This week, at center stage, is Nikki Bloss.
Nikki comes from an Italian family in New Jersey so large they might as well have owned the town. When she was young, her father got a job in Virginia and she spent the rest of her adolescence there. But like any good Italian, always made time to visit the family.
The performing arts piqued her interest at a very young age. So, when she was young, she joined a traveling production company performing musical theater. That’s right, your therapist was a theater kid. Once she reached her teen years, she got an agent and started booking commercials.
Everything you could imagine that comes along with being a child actor did—drugs, alcohol, eating disorders…but none of this dissuaded her from continuing to search for that external validation. So, she continued to act in theater, commercials, movies, and television for about 20 years. She was a regular on an ABC sitcom for years and even won the best actress award at the NYC Film Festival. When she went to college in Southern Virginia, she would take loads of cocaine and “two-way” truck stop caffeine pills and drive to D.C. for rehearsal and then back again…just in time for class. Eventually, her party days started to fade, and she fell in love, had kids, and filled her life up in every way that the movies always told her she needed to.
Everything was going perfectly well for Nikki on the outside, but one day she got an itching feeling. One that must have been building over decades. No matter how she ignored it, this unscratchable urge would not dissipate. In fact, it grew worse by the day. That deep dark sinking feeling of emptiness. She knew she had to do something. So, she started doing…well…everything. She took every spiritual healing class she could, yoga, acupuncture—I mean everything. During this time, she grew immensely. She started discovering more about herself and what she wanted in this life. “All my time was spent trying to be something for a director, a casting director, [my husband], or my children.” Was external validation really what she needed to feel worthy of love?
This is when the life that Nikki knew came crashing down. After almost 20 years of marriage, her husband cheated on her. To top that off, the woman he cheated on her with was a more successful actress. Was this a symptom of the fear he felt of her newfound strength? I wouldn’t even leave it up to Jung and Freud to answer that one.
Without mincing words, Nikki was destroyed. “Everything I thought my worth was centered around was taken away. That’s kinda what happens. The universe is like, ‘if you put your worth in anything outside of yourself, we’ll take it away, so you can find it within.’” And that is exactly what she did.
For a long while, Nikki got through the days knowing that her most important responsibility was to her two children. If she could do nothing else in the day, she could pick them up from school and be the best mother she knew how to be. Soon, she was able to work through the darkness she felt. “Nothing makes you more present than pain.” So, she dove deeper and deeper into all of the spiritual modalities she was practicing.
One day, she asked herself “What if instead of asking for love, I gave love?” before long she was enrolled in classes to become a therapist. Learning more about the human mind was incredibly important to her because, as she puts it, “the human work is the spiritual work.” After a few years of school, she started working as a therapy intern at Beit T’Shuvah and we could not be more grateful for that.
Nikki is (and I say this with zero exaggeration) one of the most beloved staff members I have ever seen walk the halls of Beit T’Shuvah. I have no idea what she does in her sessions, but her clients love her, the staff loves her, and the community loves her. Could it be that she is always so damn happy all the time? “I am not this happy tree-hugging love bubble. Yes, I can be a lot of the time, but only because I go into the darkness. I don’t try to escape from it, or run from it, or deny it anymore.”
The real reason people love Nikki so much (one of a billion I am sure) is because she so deeply and wholeheartedly cares. She goes above and beyond what anyone would ever ask of another person, let alone a staff member. That is one of the reasons why she created her own weekly program called Sacred Sundays. “When I was going through that dark time, I said to myself, ‘If I survive this, if I get through this, this is what I want to do: I want to bring these modalities of healing to people who don’t have access to them…and that is what Sacred Sundays is about.’” Every week, the residents get to enjoy an art class, yoga, meditation, or any of the various healers, experts, and gurus that she has brought into our community. She even helped set up an art auction event for the residents to share what they have creatively expressed!
There has clearly been a direct correlation between Nikki’s inward discovery and love and her ability to give that same level of discovery and love to others. Her journey has positively affected all of ours and continues to every day. As she would tell herself constantly through her darkest moments, “Your heart isn’t breaking, it’s expanding.” That expansion has made space for a whole community to feel the warmth and generosity she has to offer.
Nikki has transformed herself, and with the tools she has acquired is able to show other people how to as well. A therapist’s job is to listen—to give the client center stage. Jazz hands make it hard to hold on to anything and Nikki has more than most and gives more than any. No longer blinded by the stage lights, she’s far stronger than the person she once was. So, let’s all take a page out of Nikki’s script and ask ourselves:
Do I have my attention?