Accessibility and Obsession: Some Thoughts

After quite a lot of consideration, I don’t think I have enough content in my brain at the moment to create another book. I hope that the content of the Not Your Neurotypical Marriage posts have been helpful to those of you who needed that insight! My husband actually asked me what I thought about producing a collaborative work, where he would write about his perspective and focus on communication in a relationship/marriage. I said, that would be great! I love the idea, but if that happens it will be down the road a bit.

Today, I was moved to write about my current obsession, ballet, as well as a curious aspect of my last few obsessions that I find particularly fascinating. So I’ll begin by asking, what do you think the band Rush and ballet have in common, reader? lol

I had a revelation after a few months of Rush obsession, and I remember the moment I had it. I was listening to one of my favorite Rush tracks (they’re all my favorite) called “Fountain of Lamneth” on a vinyl copy of Caress of Steel I’d just outbid someone at the last minute for on ebay. I thought of how, when I first heard Rush years before, it did not strike me the way it does now, not by a long shot. And I also realized that the reason for this was probably part of the reason Rush was and is a cult band, with a dedicated fanbase for whom the music is much more than meets the ear on first listening.

It had been one of the “hit” songs I’d heard first, probably “Tom Sawyer,” and I don’t remember precisely how it hit me the first time, but it clearly wasn’t memorable enough for me to recollect. Fast forward several years and I’m watching a concert on a streaming platform (I was too late to the party to have ever seen them live) and the music is hitting me very, very differently, and the reason is this: I had not been willing to access Rush in the past, and now I am.

You do not hear Rush’s genius in one listening of “Where’s My Thing,” and that’s because you cannot process Rush’s genius in one listening of “Where’s My Thing.” You have to be willing to gain access, and that is effortful. Not grueling work, mind you, but not so easily handed to you on a platter like a Top 40 pop song.

Rush is not Depeche Mode (which is not a dig because Depeche Mode is my second favorite band, lol), which is a chocolate chip cookie under a mountain of vanilla ice cream covered in hot fudge… Rush is, rather, Coq au vin with a perfectly aged Burgundy (I literally Googled “fancy French dish” because I know nothing). You can listen to a song from each band once, kinda like wolfing down each of the metaphorical dishes within the same amount of time; in the former case, you will have experienced all that a mountain of sugar can offer you, but in the latter, you will have missed the experience altogether. You have to give a little bit of time to Rush because there is so much there to appreciate, and I think any Rush fan will tell you that years and hundreds of plays later, we still hear something new when we listen to Rush albums. And chocolate chip cookies are still super tasty, it’s just that it’s always that first chocolate chip cookie.

Anyways, I quickly realized once I gained access to Rush that the rewards can unfurl themselves over an entire lifetime of listening. The complexity and meticulousness of each beat and note is enough to blow your mind no matter how many times you hear it, but only once you gain access and make that effortful first decision to open the door. I was not blown away at all the first time I listened to Rush because I had not gained access.

Now the obsession is ballet, and it was the exact same scenario only over a much longer period of time. I took ballet classes when I was a kid and even danced on pointe for a year or two. I enjoyed it, sure, but did I love it? Not really. I was obsessed with Irish dance back then, which is a completely different page of my life’s obsession book. I was not interested in accessing ballet, and so I did not.

Fast forward to three months ago and bam! I sat down and made the effort to digest the language of ballet that had once seemed silly to me. The pantomime and gesturing to mark key moments in a story were strange until I effortfully suspended all disbelief and accessed the story through those motions and the dancing itself. Gradually, as I continued to watch, I began to see the rapturous beauty of lines and flow in a pas de deux. The story of Giselle successfully hit me the way it was designed to; the way it would any human being with a heart through some language, if not ballet.

Once the obsession had taken root, I really had no other choice but to lean into it, as many fellow Aspies will empathize with. I started watching documentaries and seeing the differences between traditional styles of different parts of the world and the history and the different choreographers, etc. Soon I found my favorite, which today remains The Royal Ballet and the gorgeous pairing of Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov. I discovered which choreographers I loved best and which of the narrative and nonnarrative ballets I could watch over and over again. (I love the Petipa classic romances as well as Frederick Ashton’s genius choreography.) All this, because I decided there was probably a reason so many people loved ballet and chose to access it.

So, alongside my Royal Opera House Stream watchlist is opera, which right now I do not have access to. But knowing what I know now, it is entirely possible that this time next year, I will also be a devoted opera fan, having chosen to open that door and my ears to that special language of the human heart.