YWCA's Women of Achievement in Alaska. I started getting congratulatory texts and emails before I officially found out about the award. Due to my personality (but not my essence), I am primarily a do-er and thinker, so it was not unusual that I didn't know how to feel about this great honor and recognition.
My first reaction in text to a good friend was that there was no way I could accept this. Responding to her "Why not?", I said, "Because [the woman who watches my children] isn't getting one and I can't do anything without her." This is true and not merely self-deprecation. I am immensely grateful for Carolyn and for all who have the vocation of childcare, which help so many people work other jobs.
When I found out that the award is only given to 10 women each year and the nomination process is extensive and requires many letters of recommendations, I was even more touched and even more unsure how to feel. In my perception of myself, I am just doing my job. The work of trying to make a more inclusive, less racist, more accessible, less divided, and more godly Anchorage seems like it is the summation of my job description- wherein I focus the energy for the work on the people whom I serve directly and indirectly in the Spenard/Turnagain neighborhoods and beyond.
Acknowledging that learning to integrate my feelings is part of the emotional work I need to do, I also have to graciously accept this award. If someone tells you that you are doing well or that you look nice or that they appreciate you, diminishing their compliment or notice is not humbleness, it is calling them a liar. I don't serve a community of liars, so what I perceive as "only what I ought to have done" actually comes across as extensive and special effort.
The CEO of the YWCA of Alaska, Hilary Morgan, said to me recently that almost all the women who receive this award react in the same way. We perceive that we have only been doing what we were supposed to do. Sometimes we do know that we have to stretch and never stop in order to achieve a level of achievement or success in a field where we may be the first woman or among the first women. Sometimes we have been told for years that we have to work harder because we are women. And some of us are naturally disposed to leaving it all on the field and we're surprised when we finally turn around and find that we have had a cheering section all along.
The thing for me to remember in this, and perhaps for other as well, is that I am not what I do. I am not only as good as my last achievement. I am not defined by my last success nor my last failure. I am a child of God, which is my primary identity. What I do well is rooted in that identity. What I think about should be grounded in that identity. What I feel should springboard from that. When all of that is aligned (please, Spirit, help and guide me), then I feel appropriately grateful for recognition, able to thank those whose vocations have helped me achieve in mine, and able to receive an accolade, but not have it define me.
This recognition is amazing and it is a big deal. A big enough deal that I have bought new shoes and a new dress and have a hair appointment and a makeup appointment and I will get my eyebrows and maybe my nails done. It's also a big enough deal that sometimes I just sit quietly and think about it, still overwhelmed. And then I put my pin in my sweater and go do my job.