Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart


Built to Spill

I’m not terribly gifted in the coordination department

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Kaitlyn Bryan

Physical coordination. Sometimes I fall out of my chair just saying those words. No one has ever accused me of being a graceful human being, and I have no illusions of being one. To put it simply, I have the spatial awareness of a five-year-old carrying an armload of old fishing poles through a packed movie theater. After he’s eaten a sweaty handful of Skittles dipped in maple syrup.

I can be a little clumsy.

If I’m not paying close attention, I tend to bump into things. I trip on steps. I get articles of clothing caught on doorknobs and cabinet handles. I drop things as I put them into the refrigerator and I spill food down the front of my shirt. If you want to hug me, you may end up with a head-butt and an apology (always a great combo).

Over the years, I’ve taught myself (with varying degrees of effectiveness) to be very careful in public places – like restaurants, book stores, busy sidewalks, and magic shops – so as to not embarrass myself in front of other people who aren’t my wife and kids. Sometimes I’m so busy avoiding clumsy shenanigans that I forget to actually pay attention to why I bothered to enter said public place to begin with. As a result, I get distracted and self-conscious and end up crashing my shopping cart into the chip aisle while my wife sighs at me.

Sports have never been easy for me. Catching things. Throwing things. Running at things. Hitting things with other things. I’ve always had trouble understanding exactly how all that works. Actually, come to think of it, the application of any element of physics in the real world is kind of a challenge for me. If I practice a lot and form a routine, I can master the important stuff. For example, we put a bench into our hallway at home about five years ago, and I almost never stub my toes on it anymore.

But judging distances or square footage? People, please. I have no idea.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m very happy with my abilities to walk and talk and open doors and ride bikes and carry my kid around on my shoulders. I know many people can’t. I’m just not wired to grasp my place in space as well as other people.

Unfortunately, one way of coping with my spatial ineptitude is to just shy away from activities that seem like they might be difficult to me. Like cartwheels. Or free throws. Or carrying a birthday cake full of lit candles. Too risky. As a result, I don’t usually give myself a chance to get good at certain things that might be a lot of fun. And that’s not good.

If the 75 images I see on Facebook every day depicting people gazing up at a sheer rock face are to be believed, I should not be afraid of failure.

A while ago, I broke the news to my seven-year-old that I can’t do a cartwheel. Never could. She wasn’t heartbroken that her big, tall invincible father had a weakness. In fact, she was unsurprised. Because she gets me. For better of for worse.

She actually shares a bit of her father’s coordination, um, levels. But maybe this isn’t a problem. Maybe it’s an opportunity to do something fun with my daughter – like learning to complete a cartwheel without accidentally kicking our cat across the room.

It may not turn out to be the most graceful display of human movement, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.