Monday, 9 June 2008

Very wobbly first steps & a happy ending

This posting is initially a follow up to the previous one "First Steps". There is no comparisson between this painting & the oil painting shown as part of first steps. No need to be. I am just so relieved to have got back to painting.

I have been busy the last few days but finally on Sunday afternoon I found some time to paint again. This little guy was supposed to be in monochrome (limited pallet, supposedly meant to be one colour plus the papers pigment). It is painted in water colour & water colour pencil. It is has only taken approx 4 hours or so, but has taken over two years to arrive & a great deal of emotions. It is supposed to be a preliminary sketch from which I could work out the tonal ranges, for a proper painting. The darks, the lights & the mid tones.

I got a bit carried away & ended up throwing all kinds of colours into it, haphazardly just having fun splashing paint on. Using a scalpel blade to reveal the white paper to highlight the spots where the low sun is catching the back of the cubs fluffy fur. When very young Cheetah cubs have a fluffy main to make them look a little like the honey badger, which have a fierce reputation. They have been reputedly known to make Lions back away. This is natures way of giving them a first chance of life.

I have to say this little fella nearly got eaten by my waste bin. It is a complete mess & quite embarrassing. It's quite funny that of all things I have shared on my blog this picture is one of the most personal yet. I do not know whether to be happy or sad. To be honest tears were running down my cheeks at the start of this post.

I am sooooooooooo grateful that I at least wanted to try to paint & once I started I could not put my brush down. The enthusiasm was back & that is so important to me. It was a really big positive step to finish this sketch.

Having had to give up my job because I could no longer cope or concentrate enough to do my work properly & bearing in mind that I was always going to be rusty when I tried again, this was a ten out of ten for effort but must do a whole lot better. The slight downside is that it is a painful reminder of how my abilities to create & concentrate are so drastically reduced from where they once were. I want & need to practice.

The therapy of blogging has helped me see this as a very positive first step. I am not going to let my negative chatterbox beat me.

I have had a really good weekend:-

On Friday during the day I visited our local zoo with one of my volunteer friends who I used to work with. We have a lot of mutual friends at the zoo & she kindly wanted to help make things easier for me as this was the first time many of them would see me as a women or even know I had transitioned.

The dilemma of deciding who I needed to disclose to or not, is something that I did not want to really go through anymore. Most of my close friends at the zoo already knew my situation. We walked in together. Stopping at the information office near the entrance where we had often worked together was the first of many special moments. I was introduced to the volunteers on duty as Debbie & it all felt so ordinary, so normal, just as it should be.

We then met the volunteer coordinator who was so pleased to see me back in the park. I informed him & his assistant last year that I needed to transition & they were very understanding. When I am on duty I represent the zoo & being a customer facing role I wanted to do things right. I do not want to let anyone down. If my new role in life continues to becomes routine, I hope to start volunteering again, quite soon.

I had previously been assumed to be female on occassions by members of the public, which was very gratifying although unfairly confusing for our customers. My appearance had been quite androgyness for nearly ten years but it became more difficult for me to supress my femininity as time progressed. Our park is very much family orientated, which is part of its great appeal. There are always going to be children who tell it like it is & say what they think, which is fine, as well as the very occasional ignorant person but most people are lovely.

All we want is for our customers to have an enjoyable day & if possible encourage them to think about our planet & the conservation of wildlife, many of which are endangered.

I have mixed feelings about endangered animals being held in captivity yet I feel providing they are well looked after they can help send a message to people about our need to conserve the planet, with much more impact than the written word or photographs. In an ideal world zoo's, should not exist. Would the animals be better off free but extinct? Its one for our own conscience to ponder.

It felt very healing to have a leisurely day in a place that has been a haven to me. A place my friend & I care passionately about. I was finally free from the self imposed cage that had for so long held me. Yipeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I had the confidence booster of meeting the zoo customer liaison manger, who had no idea who the lady was my friend had introduced to him as Debbie. She explained "She has worked as a volunteer here for many years, you have meet her before". He said "Hi, nice to meet you Debbie" but still looked perplexed. Even when I spoke to him, it did not register. In the end I decided it was best to let him know & he was really sweet to me. I used to have a lot of friendly banter with him. He supports a very successful rival football team & he often liked to poke fun at my team & me. I told him to please carry on with his lovely sense of humour but now our relationship was so different he seemed a little uncertain if he should. I hope we can all just get on with our friendships as they were before but the dynamics of that friendship have changed so much it may not always be possible.

The next time I go back to the zoo it will hopefully be as a volunteer. The volunteer co ordinator & my friend met again over the weekend & agreed I am ready, & if willing, wellcome to return any time I like. Music to my ears. Another little step on my pathway back to work.

I had a lovely day out but the best was yet to come. I was so looking forward to meeting dear Jo in the evening. At one point I was afraid I would have to cancel as our little doggy was taken poorly. My Mum kindly persuaded me to leave him, which made me feel quite guilty. I arrived at the picturesque "Mayfly" restaurant which is situated right on the banks of the river, in good time. I have known Jo for only a couple of years now & we have shared a most traumatic period in our lives. After years of both living in stasis, unable to move on because we were trying so hard to do the right thing for our families. We both seemed to have great deal of empathy for our situations. Different lives but so many shared experiences & emotions. I was thrilled to finally met her. I was amazed I did not burst into tears when we first met. She is every bit as sweet & kind in real life as she appears in her blog. She looked so lovely, so natural. We talked & talked. The company was delightful, the location like a picture postcard & the food yummy! What more could you ask for?

My wish, my distant dream would be to one day be able to express myself with paint & a brush, just half as good as Jo's wonderful thoughtful words, that communicate feelings & emotions so eloquently, like no other author. Transitioning is an uplifting & God willing hopefully achievable ambition but wish full thoughts of improving my creativity may be beyond me. Both are going to be a wonderful experience trying.

Lots of love
A peaceful Debbie.

Ps Our doggy is fine now & our only attempted break in this weekend was by a rather large moth which rattled my letter box & imagination. It must have been attracted by my bright lights I used for painting on Sunday evening. I was really frightened & could have done with a man or even "Rob" to protect me from the monster peeping through my letter box!

I spent the rest of my time with my dear family, dog sitting & catching up on the housework. A good weekend.

I am poignantly taking three bags of Robs old clothes to the charity shops today. No more drab for me, just colours.


Anji said...

This is the kind of post I love to read. It seems as if you've climbed over that fence that was holding you in. As usual the painting is lovely and doesn't look as messy as you say.
The visit to the zoo must have been hard, but as you say most people are lovely.

Sounds like you and Jo had a great time. What an amazing week for you!

Hope your dog is continuing in good health.

Debbie K said...

Hi Anji
Thank you for your kind words.
That fence was thankfully quite flimsy as I built it myself.
Trust me not to realise until now!

Jo was Jo. Charming, warm & friendly. Just as you always imagine she would be.

Our doggy is back eating his food again which is a very good sign.

Its lovely to see you here.
Bless you

Josephine said...


Just awwwwwww.... ;-)

It was just lovely to finally meet you honey. So nice, and I had a really really nice evening too. Here's too our next outing at the zoo??!

Your picture is fab, especially as a first effort back 'in the saddle' as it were. There's plenty more where that came from hon :-)

Anji said...

Technical question: What kind of paper did you use if it was strong enough to scrape at with a scalpel?

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I *really* enjoyed reading this post Debbie !
As I write this, I guess I am "infused" with your positivity. It really comes across in your post.
You paint wonderfully. You are inspiring me to pick up my guitar !, which I don't do so much these days 'cause I hate the sound of my not female/neutral enough sounding voice.

But I digress. Did you change the title of your blog to highlight the "ART" in the word "Heart" ? Maybe I just didn't notice it before.
A nice touch anyway.

I am glad you are feeling more and more the "therapy of blogging".
That seems to be very much your position at the moment. It's working, yes ?
"Spending a leisurely day in a place that has been a haven to me".
That is REAL closure and moving forward there...
Your confidence has visibly improved even in the short time you have been blogging, and I have known you for some time before that !

I could write more, but I'm just so so happy for you, so so happy to read it all.

Take care Debbie...big smiles and hugs ! x

Jessica Hart said...

Good news about the zoo, and your being welcome back there :)

Debbie K said...

Dear Jo
Thank you for your kind words & such a special evening. I look forward to seeing you again & there will be plenty more where this came from. I promise.

Dear Anji
The paper is quite thick. Like the person who bought it! Lol.It was recommended to me by a wonderful watercolour artist who helps to teach & inspire me.
It is called "638g Not" & is available from Paintworks paper in London.
It does not cockle (buckle/warp) when you apply a water colour wash on it & is ideal for fine detail work. It feels more like cardboard in terms of thickness.

Dear Nicky
Please, please pick up your guitar when you can.I am sure your voice is beautiful. We are our own worst critics. Try for me hun, just as soon as you are ready.

You are right I have only just changed the title. It seems to be very appropriate right now.

I am becoming quite addicted to bloging, It is wonderful therapy. You have all helped me to heal. I am truly grateful for the warmth & kindness I have felt.

My confidence is growing by the day. Still a little fragile but I just feel so lucky right now. You are as always very thoughtful & astute. I feel my sense of self belief has grown quite dramatically. It is a completely new experience for me & takes a bit of getting used to.Totally different thought processes are awakening for the first time in my life.

You helped me so much to find that belief.

You are so kind. I hope all goes well with your new home.

Thank you Jessica
One day soon I hope we can both begin volunteering soon. It is a very rewarding thing to do.

Bless you all
Lots of love

Doris said...

You have a lovely way with colours and I can feel the excitement and joy your creativity is bringing you :-)

"Jo is Jo" - yup, I'd second that ;-)

Might be time to get the cheerleaders mini skirts out and start singing "Go Debbie, Go!" :-D