A bit after my diagnosis, but still early in figuring out this life change, I kept to something I told myself I would seek more opportunities to do: which was take time off and have some manner of actual respite.
The setting for this particular one was a convention in DC. The gathering of us (who met and became family by being on thae Wayward Banshees Gish team) did some of the usual convention together goings – split a room, enable each other tae treat themselves for certain events they’d been on the fence about (‘Get that photo op, their hugs are amazing.’), exchange memories, y’know, revel in joy.
I was fortunate enough to have won a spot on a Meet and Greet (M&G) that was a mini excursion with Misha Collins. Checks the boxes of a nice wee chat whilst also going out and about and have some of that outsideness. Sounded like fun and fun definitely fell into the respite category.
I was also extremely concerned. Circle back to that significant life change – I’d been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and I was still learning the ins and outs of how much of a jerk it is. Years of data and baselines could no longer be referenced to figure out how I was doing and gauge if I was OK. More specifically, I was learning I don’t get certain cues anymore, and in the process of figuring out a treatment plan, there’d been occasion when limbs failed me with no warning. There were even a few days where I couldn’t feel my quadricep and walking was stressful because of being so used to the biofeedback telling me that muscles were working and I had sure footing. It was also a really fucking weird feeling. Cue rising anxiety and panic. By this time, I hadn’t disclosed to many people. And I was still on the fence if disclosing at work would be worth it.
A new MS diagnosis wasn’t the only significant thing that was happening at the same time which meant there were a lot of things going on demanding time and energy. Precious energy that wasn’t nearly as renewable, rechargeable as it once had been. This diagnosis meant not only a crash course of learning about it, but trying to establish new baselines and data sets. The fun part though? Since I don’t get much warning something is up it makes it hard to commit to things in advance when the very real reality is I won’t know I have to bow out until the moment my disease decides to ramp up how much of a jerk it’s going to be.
So I was worried that this wouldn’t been considered an extenuating circumstance come the day of and this organic system of systems wasn’t having ANY of it. I was also (still am to be honest) not doing well about handling responses when I felt I had to disclose my medical condition. It is continued nightmare fuel that a flare happens in public spaces without folx I know are safe. And I was worried about a flare and figuring out a ‘No, no it’s fine, I wanted to strengthen my non-dominant leg anyway.’ kind of dismissal.
My family copes using a particular slant of macabre humor directed at ourselves. But I also like not standing out and kind of being invisible in continued honesty. A medical happening kinda zeroes that out.
The key thing is this particular event was a no refunds, no exchanges, no transfers deal. So how certain did I feel about my own adaptability was a question I had to answer. And since I threw my lot in, won, I made the gamble that it’s been a bit and flares appeared under control. The other fun bits in the ways MS affects me I was learning and I felt I had way to prepare for, feel safe, and well…be able to enjoy being with my group.
Day of and so far so good. I do forget that this time of year, the temperature has a heck of a swing to cold as the sun sets. I think most of us that aren’t regularly in DC do. Our smol excursion is a nice walk down the way and grouped outside a cafe. Misha decides to get everyone a Hot Chocolate because the sun’s going down and folx are realizing it’s getting colder. He accommodatingly asks if anyone has any food issues like dairy and I raise my hand. Despite wanting to be invisible, one thing I learned was that one of the food sensitivities I developed thanks to MS was treating dairy consumption like it was poison and my body reacting as if I had food poisoning as a result.
There was no way I was going to do that despite I
enjoy enjoyed a nice hot chocolate. And I was not just going to hold it and not partake either (though my hands would thank me, but hindsight is getting ahead here). So I’m there thinking the order will just be one less and I’m fine with that.
Misha apparently isn’t. So he asks if I’d like a coffee instead. And deities help me, but coffee has never been for me and my brain is wired for accuracy and I’m also prepared for the scandalized response of my not liking coffee because that is always the response.
“No thank you, I dunnae like coffee.”
I think that’s that. But I still have his attention and it’s not scandalized at not liking coffee. Gears are turning. Problem solving is happening..wait, why is that happening? Misha is determined that I too will have a beverage. And now I’m thinking that while caffeine consumption going to near zero is another adaptation (thanks MS), having another cuppa that day is worth it. So much so, I’d even put up with the Earl Grey-ish tea that most cafes have.
“What about Kommbucha?” he asks me.
I have no idea what Kombucha is and as I have learned about food sensitivities, one key takeaway is that I can’t be cavalier about trying new things. I don’t wanna travel down that path of an answer. But…I have prepared for this. I feel confident. It is a proven method to navigate this kind of query, I’ve had the practice. So I take the road of caution and tell him, “No, I dunnae like Kombucha” figuring that’ll be it, order will have one less drink and that’s that.
“Have you ever tried it?”
Reader, I was not expecting a challenge. When I tell you that question broke the if/then flowchart I use in social situations, I was at a loss I can equivocate to: buffering. That was my sure-fire way of a polite decline without having to divulge specifics and keep things socially polite. It’s never called out. I am realizing that not only have I prematurely declared success, but the social maneuvering flow chart I use didn’t have this type of possible next response. It has there may be one last question of making sure there wasn’t anything I would like and I had at the ready, a ‘No thank you. I’m fine.’ which would close out that loop and the anxiety of people-ing wrong winning out can suck it.
Except I should have damn well known that throwing something into a touch of good natured chaos is very Misha Collins. Damn that man, damn my own nuerodivergent brain, damn thae preparation that failed me because that combination resulted in the truth wi’out hesitation, “No, I havenae.”
Misha turns to his accomplice (Jim) and tells him the lady will have a Kombucha. Then he looks back at me with with a look of absolute glee as tells me that I am going to fucking hate it.
Damn that man times two. Because now I am suddenly determined to like this Kombucha and I find myself trying to deduce what I’m in for and thinking maybe..maybe it’s a type of tea I just havenae been introduced to. And tea and I agree, so thank fuck for that. So there I sit thinking something along the lines of Sencha, Matcha…reminding myself that green tea and I get along swell. What stage is Bargaining again?
While the order is being filled, que up a nice wee chat by the group. When Misha’s accomplice (Jim) comes back, he has just one cup – my Kombucha, and he’s headed toward me. When I thank him, Jim turns to Misha and lets him know the rest of the ordering is being worked on. But Jim’s arrival prompted the potential for more glee to happen.
I’m greeted with a drink o’er ice. So no exactly thae kind of tea I was thinking would greet me. I consult the internal flowchart and thank Hels for the manners she instilled as I tear most of the paper from the straw server style, insert it and wait. Because it would be rude to start before everyone else had their drinks. I am having that bit of rebellion so help me.
Small reprieve that it is. When everyone has their drinks, it’s time. So I gingerly take a sip and I realize that Misha has been kind of waiting in the proverbial wings as I am very aware of observation. He is apparently not goantae miss this outcome. I sit with this sip, genuinely giving it a chance. It reminds me of pure ginger beer, and I know I can handle ginger beer. That’s good then, right? No need to panic.
Then the vinegary twang hits and I think that maybe that may be an issue. I take another two sips because not only has MS caused food sensitivities, it also fucks with how things taste every now and again. Reader I am so determined, so determined to give this a fair shot and well, reclaim some glee at this gauntlet that has been thrown. What the hell, I’m not even remotely competitive and what honor is at stake here?
After that last trial Am-I-Sure sip, I silently tell myself, “Aye no, that’s no for me. Fuck.’ and I know it’s clear on my face.
I refuse to take in any triumph from the Chaos Instigator-In-Chief. R e f u s e.
Doesn’t mean I am successful. And now I feel awful. I have a drink I can’t drink that he kindly purchased and dammit, why hadn’t I just asked for hot water and lemon if they could do that or nothing at all- for medical reasons and sat with that. I can’t even take in the fact that my flowchart was QA’d and a flaw was discovered. I live for that kind of systems thinking.
And because it was over ice and cold, and it’s getting colder I’m afraid I’m going to drop it on the way back because I still have cue issues with my hands being able to feel them with regular certainty (that’s where this whole MS diagnosis started). On the plus side the cold isn’t hurting my hands (that I can feel), but also it means I can’t feel losing my grip on something either. Guilt intensifies when I bin it and I feel I have no way of apologizing.
But the ‘dammit’ doesn’t end there. Oh no, no, no, no, no. My friends knew of my worry about MS being a jerk and possibly mucking up enjoying this outing. So when they’re next in the room, they ask me how it went. First friend that asked, I open with a question:
“Do you know what Kombucha is?”
“I love Kombucha”
My face must have said things. My mind certainly did hearing that; very cussy things. I proceeded to tell her about the drink ordering, drink receipt, and how I know that Kombucha is no for me. And they are mirth incarnate. So again, Misha Collins has ‘won’ and apparently I am invested in this supposed thrown gauntlet. I get an apology in the way of ‘I don’t mean to laugh,’ that is met with my ‘Oh yes yae do and I cannae blame yae for it. It is truly a comedy of errors.’ I can practically hear their mom voice in their head: And what did we learn from this?
Be a better fucking liar when answering a Misha challenge that’s what.
The second friend that asked because they reconvened with us later also got that opening question if they knew what Kombucha is. Guess what their response was? No, guess. This is how I learned they two love Kombucha and frelling hell I could have tried really damn hard to bring it back with me and feel less wasteful. Does that ever salt the wound. And that Misha Collins has won times three. Times four if we count roping me into a gauntlet but minus one because my social navigation chart mostly worked (just gimme this one dammit, please).
Time skip to the next convention Misha would be at, wherein he is part of a panel with Jensen Ackles. My friends point to a portion of it that I have to see , where Jensen is telling a story about going out to dinner with Misha. When the server comes by to ask them if they know what they would like, Misha takes Jensen’s menu, his menu, hands them to the server while telling her they’ll have the three least ordered items on the menu.
Jensen describes the place to set the atmosphere and Misha chimes in stating it was the kind of place that had brains on the menu.
Jensen: You wonder how we know that.
Jensen: …and I remember there was a piece of me that was like, ‘I hate him right now…but I…’
Which sounds way too melodious in my accent than it has any right to be given the new information. It has no right to border on sounding endearing. I replay, just to be sure and sure enough, challenging someone out of their comfort zone isn’t just something Misha Collins does for GISH, or rallying the energy that is fandom in order to try to leave the world better than they found it. Nope, it’s his gods-damned Modus Operandi. Misha Collins wins times four.
It’s been close to five years since that day in DC and wi’out fail, when I hear or read ‘Kombucha’ the response is thae same – “That motherfucker…” followed with a recalcitrant acquiescence that it was some damn fine trolling.