We threw a really nice party at Rob's house today, a holiday party. It started about 5pm, and Chantel was the first to arrive, followed by Guy, his wife and his cute 5 year old son Jack. Then Nate came with Reid, Amber, W and N. J arrived later. We had about 12 people in all. We had food because it was a potluck. I had made some rosemary roasted potatoes that everyone liked very much. We also had a big bowl of candy, most of which gotten eaten, surprisingly, because it was all gummy stuff that I didn't think looked appetizing, and some chocolate truffles. People brought other stuff as well.
The highlight for me was meeting the two new female Aspies, N and J. I couldn't get enough of them. J said that she had seen my website before when she googled Asperger's and Maine and it was the first thing that came up! She said she read it and it really helped her feel better about having Asperger's, really helped her accept it. She said she had wanted to email me many times but was too scared to! Omg. I was so flattered I couldn't believe it. She kept saying "I'm sitting next to a celebrity." She didn't know I was going to be at the party. If I hadn't tried so hard to arrange the two women getting transportation here, it might not have happened, also. Wow. She had read everything I'd ever written. She lives in Portland. Also, she is as sensitive to fragrances and chemicals as I am - that is the SECOND time in the last two days that I have met someone who is sensitive to nearly the same degree as I am, I couldn't believe it, that never happens - so already we had two big things in common. Also, by pure chance, she had spent a month at Lost Valley in Eugene, just as I did. Omg, I couldn't get enough of her. We were drinking each other up.
It was like trying to drink a really tasty but thick beverage with just a straw - you couldn't get enough. I showed her pictures of Lost Valley I had on my computer .What a coincendence. I showed them the book my essay had been in. Everyone kept talking about what a good writer I was. I was just blown away by the praise. N, the other Aspie woman, was also very enjoyable to talk to as well. She had a very kind and friendly energy to her. The three of us sat talking and they were hanging on to my every word, I couldn't believe it. I felt so loved, so included, so valued. The three of us talked for a long time at the beginning before we mingled with the others. We talked about maybe creating a female Aspie support group at another location. The guys were definitely into conversation as well. Their conversation centered more on things like science, math ,and economics though. It's interesting, put a group of people together, approximately 5 girls and 5 guys, and a very natural split occurs, even with Aspies... the guys break away to discuss more impersonal topics like the above, and the women break away and talk about relational things like their lives. Interesting, that.
Guy's son Jack was very cute and so photogenic. I love taking pictures of kids. He kept making pipe cleaner toys for me and saying "This is for you." Kids can be great. I talked to a few other people in the group I hadn;'t talked to in a while. We did the Yankee Swap, which was my idea and I created. I bought a few extra presents today at the toy store for those who forgot to bring one or chose not to bring one, so everyone had a gift. And as it turned out, everyone liked their gift! Everyone just by chance got the gift that was perfect for them. I even got as a joke some fake dog poo, because it was cheap and it was funny, and the person who got it loved it. He works in a grocery store and says he can use that for jokes at the store. It was nice to arrange my own Yankee swap.
We didn't even have time for any games or a movie because everyone was talking. We talked as much as any group of NTs could, for three hours. =) I was pretty happy with the outcome, although I am a little tired now.
It's a lot of information to process! I write this not to be a piece of art but to help me process what went on and remember it for the future. I think I have made a new friend. It's the most female contact I've had in ages, and female Aspies at that. I would like to see more of them. Maybe we'll have to make our own little group. I love my guy friends, but I would *love* to have a group of women peers to be with. I've never had that in my entire life. I think it would be so very nice. I will have to be patient and see if it happens. And be patient with relaxing from all the excitement from tonight! I think we got some good pictures. Wow, how nice to think I can throw a party, or Rob and I can throw a party, for our friends just like other people do and have it be a success. That's definitely saying something. I've been a lot more social lately.
Groceries on the counter, stomach empty except for yogurt and a little turkey I had earlier, need to recharge before can do either. What a day.
The meetup was really good but I am pretty exhausted. Being in Books a Million for 2.5 hrs takes a lot out of you. My body is all like "hey we kind of don't feel like breathing right now". But my brain is like "Thank you for giving me that nice social opportunity to meet other people and reconnect with an old friend." And then my brain is like "I wish Borders was still there." Hahaha.
About 12 people, mostly significantly older people which usually I don't mind but I didn't really get the touchy feely relational vibes from them. But luckily closest to me were three younger people who were putting out those vibes. So I talked to them. One in particular was extremely interesting. She works in a library in Limington, near Standish, quite far from here. I was very glad that my friend Carol went to the meetup with me so I had someone to take comfort from, and I was able to get a ride from her, and most importantly it was just really good to see her again and talk to her, as I hadn't for some time. The best part really was after the meetup when Carol, this other girl and I were all talking. I could feel the place bothering me but I just chose to ignore it and make myself talk, pretty much what I did at the synagogue. I feel similarly not good like I did at the synagogue. But once in a while...Gotta stretch yourself I guess. Want to see how the rest of the world lives.
This other girl M was sitting there and she said "Wow, those magazines are really fragrant." I'm like, woah, did you just say what I thought you said? She said, yeah they're really smelly. "I don't like anything with artificial fragrances. My house is a scent free zone." I'm like, woah. I totally get you. Ha, what are the chances? Too bad she lives so far away, but maybe could visit her if I'm visiting my parents, or if she's willing to come into Portland. She positively vibrated with passionate energy. Her eyes positively danced. She was petite like me and we were sitting in exactly the same way... one leg crossed over the other and using our hands to gesture as we spoke. Her face spoke volumes. I really like meeting those kind of people. It just makes you feel so alive, so connected. The three of us all said we wanted more community and more social connections. My other friend might be starting a new meetup group that could be interesting, that might meet at whole foods.
The bookstore wasn't as much a madhouse as I would have thought it would have been, given the holidays. Long line, but other than that. Not like the toy store in Portland.
There was a guy who looked like straight out of central casting for a poet... Hard to describe but yeah. He was nice. The guy who lead the group talked a lot about upcoming events for the group. Most of what they do is critique writing which I'm not really all that interested in.
I also got to do some grocery shopping so do not have to worry about that. Now I just have to put it away, Sigh. I went to the gelato shop briefly to talk to the girl there, we talked about Burlington. Sidewalks were more clear today but it was damp and felt chilly even though it was 35.
So now I have to be positive and calm as I deal with and accept the tiredness and offness and weird breathing feelings that come with spending 2.5 hrs in Books a Million, and be patient while they pass. Eventually. And remind myself it was worth it to expand my world.
And hope I can get some sleep tomorrow. Apparently we are having the storm door installed tomorrow. Yay, more newness in a day when I really just need to relax. So much fun. Haha. Not. Hopefully I will be more well rested by then. I need to be thankful for what I have.
That concludes this episode of what Kate did today....
Need to remember ... I am loved.. .I am cared about... even if I sometimes can't see it or feel it or forget it. I exist in a cloud of love. I have abilities I do not even realize and doubt myself too much. I have the ability to connect with a wide range of people and people see me in a much more positive light than I see myself. Therefore I should not judge myself so harshly. Everyone seemed glad to meet me and talkto me at the meetup. It was much better than the general social meetups I've been in the past since it was based around a common, intellectual interest. My friend said, you've had to develop a lot of confidence since you've been through so much. And I didn't really think about it that way before... because although I've developed more social confidence because I wanted social interaction so badly that I just decided to not care what people thought, to an extent, and go for it, I constantly doubt myself in other areas. But I do find that with every challenge I am able to meet it, surpass the obstacles, even thrive , or so people tell me.... It's just the before and the after that really sucks. The anticipation and the comedown. So... Need to believe in my self... Need to try not to have so much anticipation anxiety... Ive surmounted all kinds of obstacles most people don't even have to think about. And instead of being ashamed that I have these obstacles I should be proud that I've managed to overcome a great deal of them.... Maybe not all of them or as much as I'd like but... a lot of them. Food for thought.
I just posted this on Facebook and it was so long I thought I could make it into a blog post. I cannot believe I have not posted in here since May. My life has been in turmoil since May and that is probably why. I lived at my friend Rob's for the spring, an apartment in Portland which didn't turn out very well for the summer , and am back at Rob's for the fall and into the winter. Trying to find a way to make my life into a life despite the many problems I have, the chief one being how to go places , what to do with my time, in a way that doesn't aggrevate my chemical sensitivities and problems going into places. How to find a way to be part of a community and interact with people while still keeping my body happy. I have been going to meetups in North Yarmouth and the woman who leads them, Margie, talks about following your passion and your delight and the rest will follow. So today, I saw there was going to be a Hanukkah party at a synagogue in Portland, and even though I had never been in the building and I couldn't get transportation from the friend who was going there, I made up my mind to go. I got a ride to Falmouth, a bus to downtown Portland, another bus to Brighton Ave where the synagogue was located, and met my friend there. It was a difficult thing to do , but I did it. This is what I wrote about it.
I feel completely wasted but I accomplished my goal. My heart is beating so fast it feels like it is beating out of my body. I feel like I can hardly breathe. I am strangely calm about it but I don't know how long I will stay that way. I accomplished my goal. I took the bus from Monument Square to Brighton and St John to get to the synagogue. It was dark out so I didn't know where I was on Brighton and got off three blocks too far. Walking down Brighton in the dark was creepy and a bit scary, it wasn't very well lit. I found the street I needed, Devonshire (ironically the same name of the street mom lives on in Montana) and walked down that, and found the synagogue, Beth El, which I had never been to before.
I spent several minutes outside trying to get the courage to go in. I felt tolerable inside but then when you get to the main area where the Hanukkah party was, man, it was loud, with everyone talking and the music. It was a large room with a lot of tables and chairs and people, but I missed the candle lighting and no one was playing with dreidels. Very little Jewish stuff happening.
I found Janine , with whom without I would have been lost. I felt like I couldn't talk at all. I felt a pressure on my body and felt uncomfortable. I felt like it was physically hard to talk, but I would be damned if I was going to make all the effort to go there and do nothing but talk to Janine (no offense to Janine but I already know her). I asked her how to talk to the others but she didn't really know so I thought, well, I don't really know how to mingle, but I know how to chat with people, so I'll give it a try. So with great effort I put my best smile on and went up to people and said, "Hi, I'm Kate and I'm new at this temple." They introduced themselves and I asked them where they were from, what they did and so on. They asked me the same. With some people, the conversations were rather short, and with others they were longer. I talked to probably 7 or 8 people, I didn't start to the end of the evening so I didn't get to everyone but I got to a lot of people.
Janine knew someone who lived in Brunswick and so could give me a ride home as I was on their way, and fortunately they were even fragrance free as well, I thankfully had no problem with their car. They were very nice, the husband in particular.
The nicest people I met had just moved here from Texas, and said that they didn't think anyone in Maine smiled very much. lol Apparently people are always smiling in Texas, but it is a fake smile they said. The dad was a doctor, in geriatrics, and their daughter, who was 12 but looked and acted much older ,was very pleasant to talk to. We played dreidel a bit. She told me that in ancient Rome or somewhere the reason that people shook hands was they wanted to make sure the other didn't have a knife or some weapon. Isn't that fascinating? I did run into the problem of not liking to shake hands but most people seemed to be understanding of this. The rabbi seemed nice enough, she was a woman.
Everyone told me to come back and I admit if transportation was not a problem it would be tempting, but I can't take feeling this shitty very often so I probably will not. I would however be very tempted to go to services at Bet Ha'am in South Portland, because probably due to their concrete floors or whatever it may be, I found I did not react at all there. I would need transportation there (or back from there) however. Perhaps I could call the office and ask if there is anyone in this area who goes and could give me a ride.
So while emotionally I feel satisfied that I did something meaningful with my day, in all other ways and especially physically I feel very shitty and not able to do much. I feel like I am going to fall over and can barely sit up. I am trying to tolerate it, because I want to be part of this world. But if I let myself think about it, I would be very worried, because functionality in this state is very difficult. I need to be patient until it passes. It better pass soon.
What a day. I did accomplish my goal though. I feel really far away from everything though. I pushed myself to act friendly and to say "normal" things to make conversation and now I just feel half dead .But I wanted conversation, I wanted the experience. We'll see how it turns out for me in the end, I guess, huh?
"You can't explore new oceans if you're not willing to lose sight of the shore." So true.
I had been trying to think of something to be happy about, lately. Tonight was no exception. My little brother called me, and this made me very happy, as it was so nice to hear his voice and to talk to him. He also used his new knowledge as a nurse to help me with a medical issue I've been having. We got disconnected, and I was happy for a while till I got to not being happy again, and then I finally got him on the phone again. He had been going through the mountains and lost the call, through the mountains to Bend, Oregon.
I used to live in Bend. That's a long story that I wrote extensively about on another blog. The blog has now dissapeared, which makes me dissapointed. I did not like Bend, for many reasons, mostly that the dry air and extreme sun made it hard for me to breathe and made me very disoriented. Also, people are very fragrant in their use of perfumes there, and it's as far away culturally and geographically from Maine as you can get without being in, say, Arizona.
So, as I hung up, I thought to myself, I have something to be happy about now! I am not in Bend!
That thought alone was enough to make me happy.
The other day, I was in Portland, walking the streets that I love so much, and I made a list of all the things that had made me smile and made me happy while I walked around. I have unfortunately lost the list, but I will try to recreate it here. I stood there, the intersection by the Eastland right by the art musuem as I waited to cross, after walking down from Longfellow Square, and I thought to myself,
after a lovely, sunny, beautiful day of walking around my beloved city of Portland, "Please let me remember just to be happy to be near Portland. I love this city so much. I love everything about it, and even though my life is in turmoil and I am not where I want to be in any sense of the phrase, let me remember that as long as I can get to Portland, I must be doing all right."
I can't claim to have remembered that plea to myself as much as I would like. I get upset, depressed, agitated, even hopeless at times, so many times, since that moment only a few days ago. But I am remembering it now, and if I remember it at least on and off, maybe that will be good enough. Maybe that is all you can ask.
For now, I present
Reasons to be Happy in Portland on a Sunny Tuesday in May
Pink cherry blossoms swirling around your feet as you walk down Pine Street in the West End
An impromptu concert at the Bank of America balcony in Monument Square
Stores that have their doors open, heralding spring
Street musicians adding to the joy and wonder of the city - guitar and even violin
Sitting on the square granite monument in the middle of Monument Square that has held you for so many years, through so many lives - It is still there. You are still there, and it is still there, and its permanence soothes you.
The guy who plays his guitar on Commercial Street who remembers you and starts to play the Beatles when you approach
The gelato shop, the lox place, and being known by people who work there
Coconut and chocolate sorbetto and the best lox in the state consumed on a lazy afternoon
The boats of Long Wharf, their reflections shining in the water
People, so happy to be out in the sun, lounging in the parks from Longfellow Square to the Old Port
The familiar streets and buildings, the people watching, the buses, everything working like clockwork
I walked that day, from Monument Square to the water of Commercial St to get some lox, back up to Monument and further up Congress to the art museum and then Longfellow Square, down Pine St to get to my appt. An hour later, back down, to Fore St in the Old Port for some gelato, back to Commercial to pick up the lox I bought earlier, and taking a new way, a shortcut I had just discovered, Union St straight up and a right to get to the street that would lead me down to Whole Foods. Walking around Portland feels like living out a love song for my city. It is a meditation, it is an expression, of a kind. Portland's streets are the mantra of which I live my life, at least the better parts of it. Do I always feel like this? Not every time, but enough , enough to make it worth it.
I have always swooned over Portland and I suppose that I should be thankful that in all the turmoil that seems to constantly follow my life, that has never, ever changed. I doubt it ever will.
How could anyone build a city more perfect than Portland? I admit, I am biased.
Because tonight I have something, however small, to be happy about.
So, while we're on the topic of seeming irrelevant topics (and when am I ever not on that topic?), I called both Aurora Provisions and Foley's bakery about one particular subject today - Mousse. Particularly, chocolate mousse. You see, last week, last Friday to be exact, I went into a gourmet food shoppe I had never been into in Portland that you have to walk by to get to my psych nurse appt. It was like a heaven ,a nirvana. Best. Gourmet. Food. Shop. Ever! I got a few things, one for Tim, a Dolfin lavender chocolate bar that I thought I could eat, and my friend R got a few things, but I kept coming back to... .The Mousse.
A container of nothing but dark chocolate expresso mousse for a few bucks. Omg, did I keep coming back to it. I couldn't leave the store without it, so I got it figuring I could give it to N or R and *someone* could enjoy it.
But, I have to tell you a secret. In all the bakeries, chocolate shops and foodie places I've been in the in the last 2 years, this little chocolate mousse was the first to break through my defenses.
I ate some.
This may not sound out of the ordinary to you, but the last time I tested dairy and eggs was around 2 years ago and I had a bad reaction. So despite loving the stuff to death I have avoided every trace of it for 2 years. Which ended with that lovely chocolate expresso mousse.
It was absolutely wonderful and decadent. Since it was mousse, I could eat it with a spoon and bypass my sensitive teeth. Since it was just mousse, I could seperate it from other possible allergens like gluten. How could I resist? It melted in your mouth, so light , fluffy and yet intense. Dark chocolate gave way to just a hint of expresso - not enough to overwhelm as expresso usually does. Just enough to add to the flavor profile. And when you added the banana sorbetto I had gotten from GF to a small (and I do mean small, I was using a gelato spoon) spoonful of it, the flavors melded together and exploded in a beautiful symphony of chocolate,expresso and banana.
And the most amazing thing? No stomach symptoms. Ever after the usual 2 hours.
SO, Off to whole foods I went last night in search of one of their wonderful mousse desserts I had been holding back on for so long! But alas, they only had a milk, white and dark mix, with hardly any dark. Not worth it! I was very dissapointed. Now I have learned my lesson. One must search for the dark chocolate mousse ahead of time! So I have called and sussed out Foley's and Aurora for more of this precious stuff and will be repeating this experiment again on Friday if all goes well. Ain't therapy wonderful? =)
I find the best bakeries when visiting mental health professionals. It happened in college too. Too funny!
I was at my favorite gelato (ice cream) shop, hanging out on a sunny winter day. A woman is at the counter, paying for her gelato. I'm hanging back, getting ready to leave. The cashier is telling her about the weather discount, which fluctuates according to the temperature in the winter, and is 7% at the moment. She seems excited, so I casually mention "Oh, it was 11% when I came in." She turns and looks at me and says "I was your guidance counselor in junior high."
So, obviously this was unexpected, but interesting. I think for a minute, trying hard to pull any memories of "junior high school guidance counselor" out of my brain. Her name comes to my mind, and I repeat it. I am right. She seems flattered I remember her name. A long ago experience comes to mind, and I feel compelled to share it with her. It is about a time when I tried to talk to her about all the bullying that I went through that particular year in junior high. But I chickened out and end up talking about my parents' divorce instead, which totally *didn't* bother me but I knew she'd buy that it did. I couldn't find the words to talk about the other thing. For a *very long* time afterwards. Until my stepmom came along, really. =)
For years afterwards it bothered me that I wasn't able to talk about it or seek help when I needed to. Fortunately, thank goodness, I am more than able to talk about my problems, get support and find help now (as is more than evident from my social media posts), and I am thankful for that.
I told her this story in abbreviated form, and she said "Ah. Yes, there was another girl who was being bullied too." Forget the OBVIOUS, OBVIOUS problem with the singular use of that word - one other girl in the whole junior high, yeah right! Forget that, it felt somewhat like a finished chapter in my life. It's not like I've even thought of this incident or chapter of my life in a long time, (although I used to constantly), but I always used to feel like there was something missing because I hadn't been able to address the issues I had then in the way I wanted to.
Literally fifteen years later - fifteen years later!! - in a gelato shop in Portland, Maine on a random winter afternoon, she walks in and I am absolved in the most unexpected way, unburdened of a burden I had almost forgotten I was carrying.
This whole encounter took about five minutes.
And you know what the thing is? I don't remember if it was in high school or immediately after when I was home from college, but I used to go back to the junior high, years ago. I think it was probably sometime mid-high school. I would talk to some of my old teachers. I would try to make some peace with my past there.
It never worked. It never touched the pain. It felt pretty foolish, actually. Can't force healing, I guess.
But 15 years later.... You have to be in a different place in your life, with more perspective and more life experiences, to be able to look at the experiences of your past with empathy and forgiveness for yourself. And although I had already mostly done that for myself, mostly, I didn't mind this little bit of reinforcement. I didn't mind at all getting to finally say 15 years later what I had so much been dying to say when I was 13. I really didn't mind saying it with confidence and grace, not feeling the trauma of the past as I did for so many years, but instead the pride of the present, the pride of who I am now and what I did to overcome it. It actually felt empowering. I suppose it was a reminder of how far I'd come.
Self-forgiveness and self-empowerment, with a cherry on top.
If you like this, please be sure to visit my other website, Accepting Asperger's. A lot of my older writing is stored here, including an editorial I once wrote for the Baltimore Sun. Click here to see it: Accepting Asperger's.
What's it really like to be a 20 something with Asperger's? On this blog, I hope to explore that question. But this blog is not just limited to an audience of people in their 20s - this is for anyone who ever wanted to know anything about autism. I plan to delve into the nature and experience of autism, and examine it from as many angles as possible. I would like to start a conversation between people with Asperger's or autism, parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders, and anyone who just wants to know more. Let's explore what autism means, together.
My goal is to start a discussion on and build a community of people affected by autism - parents and adults with ASD - so feel free to leave your two cents in the comments section of any post. If you're too shy for that, however, or want to speak to me personally, you may feel free to email me at KGoldfie@gmail.com.
Asperger's Book for Sale
Common Scents: Adventures with Autism and Chemical Sensitivity" is the story of a young woman's search for physical and emotional safety as she journeys through the mountains of the Cascades, small coastal towns on the Oregon coast, and out-of the-way towns in upstate New York. Along the way, she experiences things she would never have dreamed possible had she stayed in her Maine hometown, and begins to learn the power of human connection.
Common Scents is the story of the last three years of my life. It gives a gripping view of what it is like to experience the world as someone on the autistic spectrum, and some would say, is an entertaining travel story as well. Because of chemical sensitivities, I engaged on a three year journey for a place I could call home.
Comments from readers:
"The Asperger's element is remarkable. I feel that I understand my son better, so much better. I laughed at this part.... because I've stared at my son in the same way for the same thing." - mother of an Asperger's kid
"Your writing style is SO engaging and interesting. It brings me right into the subject and I always experience a little emotional punch towards the end. In other words, this is the third time I've teared-up reading your work. Kate, you've highlighted ALL the problems with how social skills are usually taught." - mother of ASD kid
"I stayed up entirely too late reading the first 14 pages. I can relate to so much of what you write. I really think you are expressing the true experience with MCS and autism in words that convey the experience." person with chemical sensitivity (MCS)
"Absolutely interesting, insightful and witty. You've blended together your three themes beautifully (Asperger's, MCS and travelling). It seems seamless."