gratitude-a-thon day 2045: people who change you

There are some people you meet in your life that change it. In a myriad of ways. Forever.

I got Colleen Quinn’s name from a fellow spine suffering friend about 20 years ago. She had a sunny personal training studio in Brookline Village called Eutopia. I was hesitant, because my back was a problem that I’d acquired at 19, during college, which had caused me to stop running, which I loved, and doing anything high impact (sound awful? It was). I lived my life in physical therapy, having to leave jobs during particularly bad episodes, and got used to living with limitations and pain that would go anywhere from 5 to 1,987,298 in the time span of one minute.

While I had stayed active with a biking phase (my back didn’t like that after a few years), a swimming phase (my hair didn’t like that after a few years), and low impact aerobic phase (I didn’t like these after a few years), I turned to walking. I llved life in my body carefully. I lifted wisely, especially my babies, asked the grocery baggers to go “light,” never was that friend who could help move your stuff from apartment to apartment, didn’t twist for nearly two decades, and stayed obedient to the list of things which could irritate my disc (everything) so fearful was I of having an “episode’ of debilitating back pain.

But there was something about my friend’s insistence I go see Colleen that after her nagging me for a year, had me walk into her yellow studio on Washington Street. And GAME CHANGER, this former physical therapist, turned personal trainer got me and my back in a spectacularly astute way. I began training with her three times a week and with each passing session, I began to trust my body in a new way. Colleen’s exceptional ability to find the way to get me to move my parts in ways they hadn’t moved in decades was nothing short of magic. And I saw that she took that personalized and miracle-making approach with all of her clients, who like me, grew stronger with every Eutopia session. Pretty soon my husband was seeing her, and my sister, and my daughter and my son, too.

Of course, aside from her keen training smarts, I loved her personality and love of beauty and fun and nature and the beach and her dogs. She was brilliant and kind, had a spectacular sense of humor, a constant curiosity, and depth. Colleen became part of our family. All of us loved her, including our dog.

One of the worst days in my life (sound dramatic, but not even kidding) was the day she told me she’d decided to move to Northern California. Of course, I understood, who could stand these winters anymore, but I would miss her terribly, but even worse, what about my body? What would happen to me? This lead to me training on Zoom with her many years before the pandemic made it popular. Then, one day, I embarked on a yoga class, and heard about a pilates teacher, and trying both, I realized how much I’d missed in person working out, so we decided to end our sessions for the time. My husband, whose arthritis is tricky, still trains with her and she can always figure out a way to help him work his challenging circumstance.

This was the last session at Eutopia. As you can see, I’d been crying and even had a cold sore on my lip from the stress!

This all leads me to the fact that Colleen’s dream of having a retreat center is in the process of coming true! She and her fiancé bought a piece of land in Northern California, where Continuum is going to be built. It’s absolutely thrilling and I literally cannot wait for this center to get off the ground. There is currently a gofundme (read all the amazing details) to help this (expensive) piece of heaven get off the ground. If you have any amount to give, please do, and if you don’t, keep it in mind, because this is a place where beauty and life and healing are going to happen.

The enchanted piece of land that the restorative retreat center, Continuum will be built on.

Anyway, I am so grateful for Colleen’s presence in my life. She’s part trainer, part sister, part friend, part wise, older -than-her-years guru. Mostly she’s a magical being who sees the world in all its complexity and still shows up for it with unbridled enthusiasm. And that alone is really something. I have endless gratitude for the naggy friend who forced me to meet Colleen long ago. It did actually change my life.

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