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One of the aspects of being a reporter I loved was meeting so many incredible people across mid-Michigan.  Carrie Rathbun Hawks is one of them.  It’s been many years since we first met but what I remember ―and it’s still the case today― is being intrigued at how nice and genuine Carrie is.  She is also one of the most talented marketers I know.  When I needed help with ePIFanyNow™ I immediately recommended the board hire Carrie.  She’s a great writer, very organized and always willing to lend a hand.

The last few months Carrie’s been vocal about issues with her health and I am so proud of her. Carrie inspires me and I think you’ll understand why.

WHO/WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Faith is probably my biggest inspiration. God has given me many talents and surrounded me with family, friends, love and opportunity. So I must first give all thanks to Him. Though not easy, I am always comforted by prayer and knowing I can lean on Him for strength. He may not answer my prayers exactly the way I want Him to, but ultimately, I end up in a better place.

There’s also a quote I try to remember when I’m uncertain: “Facing it — always facing it — that’s the way to get through it. Face it!” (Joseph Conrad) With that in mind, I’m very inspired by people who overcome adversity and keep moving their lives forward even when it would be easier to just make excuses or wait for someone else to solve their problems. We all have bad days, but I take courage from those who recognize they aren’t going to get anywhere by sitting around feeling sorry for themselves.

“Adversity” can be defined in many ways. It’s different for all of us. Putting one foot in front of the other can be hard some days. We all have to do it. When I’m struggling with something, I remind myself of the people around me who have “faced it,” and I am inspired to do what I have to do. Good things usually result.

DO YOU HAVE A MOTTO YOU LIVE BY?

Not really. I’ve heard many expressions, mottos, quotes, anecdotes, etc. over the years that I carry with me. Though I don’t always succeed, I try to treat others as I’d like to be treated (AKA The Golden Rule). My parents always told my sister and I that we could be anyone we wanted and do anything we put our mind to. I think this advice can be applied in many ways. I’ve tried to remember their words when I have the opportunity to help someone else, or need to make a tough decision, or follow my gut on a business or family issue. We’re ultimately defined by our actions, which are a reflection of our heart, mind and soul.

DO YOU HAVE A LESSON OR THOUGHT TO SHARE?

At 43 years old, I have come to realize (sometimes kicking and screaming!) that we all have choices in life. We might not realize it, but how we react to most everything is a choice that we can control. Sometimes this seems ridiculous, especially when you are faced with situations that are created by someone else’s doing — for better or worse. Sometimes we don’t make a choice at all, but not making a choice is still a choice. (Wow, I’m sounding philosophical!) I think I will struggle with this forever, as most humans do. But when I think about it, I realize it’s true. So despite my own shortcomings in this area, I am hopeful that more people in our great big world will come to understand this.

The last few years have brought personal health issues that were caused largely by someone else’s unintended negligence. I’ve struggled with extreme anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia and mild depression. Those close to me know that the journey has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion, literally and spiritually. When it started, I never would’ve believed it if you’d told me I’d still be dealing with these things three-and-a-half years later. I’ve been to multiple doctors, therapists and holistic practitioners. I’ve endured painful tests, ineffective procedures and debilitating medications.

But despite the hardships, I have also met some amazing people. They’ve all done their part to give me hope and keep me searching for answers and healing. I could’ve given up many times, but God kept opening new doors for me. I realized early on that I had to make a choice to accept the status quo or keep pushing to get better. I chose to push through and fight my way back to the light by using the resources that continued to present themselves to me.

Thankfully, I am in a much better place now and have learned a lifetime of lessons along the way. I’ve come through it with the help of friends and family who have loved me unconditionally. My faith is stronger than it’s ever been and I am so much tougher and more resilient than I realized. Two passages that have become my favorites through all of this are “Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent” (Jean Kerr) and “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

I choose to share my story so that others can have hope and benefit from my journey. People tell me I should write a book and go on the speaking circuit, but I don’t believe I’m all that unique in my experience. We all have our ups and downs. It’s how we choose to deal with them that makes the difference.

HOW DO YOU HANDLE STRESS?

Chocolate and yelling (LOL!). This is a loaded question for me. I’m not good at handling stress at all sometimes. I’ve gotten better through my health issues, however, because enough people have beaten into me the message that “you have to take care of yourself. Self-care is not selfish.” It’s still hard for me to truly believe though. I’m a guilty person, so even when I do something that’s just for me, I don’t feel entirely comfortable.

Prayer, deep breathing, yoga, walking, journaling, baking and watching cooking shows and good English dramas like Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge are top on my list of stress busters. I also enjoy watching movies with my son and husband, and having a glass of wine and heartfelt “conversation” (okay, griping) with my best girl and boy friends (you know who you are!).

It’s also deeply rewarding for me to do nice things for people I care about. If I know a friend likes homemade banana bread, I will make her a loaf “just because.” If I’m near the bakery that makes my family’s favorite donut (maple triangles at Lance’s in Owosso, to be specific), I will often stop and pick up a treat for them (and me too!). Giving from the heart is just the right thing to do! Sometimes we get so caught up in our own little worlds that we don’t remember to check on those around us.

Bottom line: I’ve been unbelievably and undeservedly blessed in my life. This is cliche, but I hope I’m sharing those blessings in a way that will make the world a better place.

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