Local woman gives a unique inside glimpse at life with Asperger’s

Portland, Maine is an amazing place.

We are world renowned for our first class restaurants, our beautiful geography and landscapes, our working waterfront, and our sprawling public parks.

Kate Goldfield clowns around on Fore Street in Portland

Kate Goldfield clowns around on Fore Street in Portland

But as someone who has spent his entire life as a resident of this city, for me the most incredible thing about Portland is the people who live here with me.

We come from all walks of life, our heritage and blood lines are represented by every region of the “outside” world. Dozens of languages are spoken at our public high schools, wealthy suits take their lunch breaks with blue collar laborers downtown, we attract the most downtrodden and the most well-to-do from across the country as a viable place to live.

So I’ve come to realize in my relatively short time as a blogger/columnist that the most surefire way to find a good human interest story is to simply take a walk around downtown and chat with strangers.

My dog typically acts as the icebreaker, and last week was one of the more interesting conversations that he’s helped start for me.

As I was lingering around Monument Square, enjoying the last few minutes of light as the sun set over the mountains, I was approached by a friendly woman named Kate Goldfield. She asked to pet my dog and after chatting for a few minutes she made the connection between me and my column in the Portland Sun. She opened up to me about her struggles (and successes) living with adult Asperger’s Syndrome and asked me if I would be willing to help create awareness for the disorder in general and for her story specifically.

Of course, I was happy to oblige, but this blog post isn’t exactly what I had in mind. See, Ms. Goldfield and I have shared an email correspondence for about the past week, and although I have a bigger project in mind for her story I felt as if her emails to me were touching and thought provoking enough to warrant a post of their own.

To give the complete feel, I’ll just paste our correspondence in full. They reveal a daily struggle that most of us do not typically take the time to realize, understand, or empathize for.

Here’s it is:

Hi Chris,

We met last Thursday at the vigil in Monument Square. It so often happens that the best parts of life happen when you’re on your way somewhere else, as I hadn’t even planned to go to the vigil, but talking to the people I met there was the best part of my week. 
I would like to have a conversation with you about a possible angle to take in using Asperger’s or autism for one of your columns. One possibility is that I am giving a talk on autism at a local synagogue on Friday, September 5th, so perhaps you would enjoy going to that for more background on me and the message that I want to give to the world. It is at 730pm and located at Bet Ha’am on 81 Westbrook St in South Portland. I plan to talk about how I discovered I have autism, what I did once  I found out, and how it has affected my life. I was not diagnosed until age 21.
A lot of people are not diagnosed until they are adults. It puts their life into an entirely different context and starts the process of self-forgiveness that needs to come for live to be lived a little more richly and a little more effectively. Meeting other people like you for the first time in your life and starting to accept yourself is a very powerful journey. 
So, let me know if any of this interests you or if you would like to know more. I am quite open. If you want to look at my website, please do. It’s at www.freewebs.com/aspiefrommaine  On there you will find the Baltimore Sun article I wrote about autism in 2005. I’d be happy to talk to you more if you are interested. 
Now I’m going to try to figure out how to submit an event so I can get my talk on the Daily Sun calendar and get people there =) 
Thank you very much for your time and interest
Kate Goldfield 
Thanks so much for your email, it was a pleasure to meet you. I’d like to help tell your story and spread your message. Are you free this weekend to sit down and chat over coffee? CS
Hi Chris,

I most certainly am. I had a busy day today – did you see those awesome art festivals downtown? They were so cool, I loved the colors – but will be around tomorrow. I am a somewhat of a night owl ,though. I often don’t get up until afternoon. I also have chemical sensitivities that prevent me from going in most buildings. Usually I meet people at the public market in Monument Sq… that’s only open to 5 on Sunday, though. Whole Foods is another option. I’m not sure what time I’ll end up being functional tomorrow, but if you’re around and want me to call when I’m ready to go out, I’d love to meet you and chat more. Leave a good number to call on if you’d like.
Ok cool, I have a moving job tomorrow morning so I’ll be busy till noon anyways. Just give me a call when you get a chance and we’ll figure something out. Thanks! CS

Many apologies for not calling. My brain has not gotten to a place where it is regulating sensory information enough to actually communicate with people yet today. That does not usually happen but I imagine is due to the 8 hrs of intense social interaction I had yesterday. Probably pushed myself too much. Learning how to rest has been a real challenge for me. I always want to be out doing things, but my body can’t handle all I want it to do. But I so much want to be a part of the world and the lives others have. So the only thing left is to find ways to rest and interact that are calm and safe enough for me that I don’t get so overloaded, I guess. And cramming in as much as I did on Saturday is probably not the greatest idea. Still learning. 
Just moved to an apartment on my own so that’s been a learning curve too. 
What is your schedule like next week? Would you have any time Monday or Tues evening or afternoon? I think you have a day job so I imagine you are not around in the afternoon though. I have time other days as well, a few evening things towards end of week. 
I’d still love to talk to you. Just overloaded today. 
Kate and I still have not found time to meet, but you’ll be hearing more from me about this impressive woman again in the near future.



Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.