Monday, August 15, 2011

My Prayer of Self Belittlement

I’m trapped in an empty room. I can’t move because there are no batteries on my wheelchair. That man unhooked them and hauled them away and he left me here alone in this empty room in the wheelchair repair shop.

It’s so quiet in this empty room, quiet as the desert. The repairman will be back in a few minutes with spanking new batteries to replace my old sluggish batteries. And he’ll hook my new batteries up and I’ll be on my way, my zip restored. But I don’t care. I can’t wait that long. I can’t stand being powerless like this, not even for a few minutes. The room is so empty and quiet, so lit up bright with taunting fluorescence. It feels like a nightmare. I want out now!

And even when the man returns and I’m rolling again, the nightmare won’t be over. He’ll present me with a big bill, probably $500 for spanking new batteries plus another $500 for hooking them up. Get me out of here now!

Way back when I was still Catholic, this was the type of situation where I’d seek refuge in my Prayer of Self Belittlement. The Prayer of Self Belittlement was designed specifically for occasions like this. It went something like: “Dear God, I know I have absolutely no right to feel sorry for myself when there are children starving in China. Please forgive me for being such a selfish brute. I promise I will never ever complain about my life ever ever again.”

The Prayer of Self Belittlement is the only Catholic prayer I still remember because it’s the only prayer that can be improvised, more or less. The goal is to chastise yourself into passivity by comparing your wretchedly ungrateful self to someone you think is way worse off than you. Since everyone can come up with someone they think is way worse than them, even the lowliest galley slave can repress their rebellious soul by reciting the Prayer of Self Belittlement. The Prayer of Self Belittlement reminds you exactly who you are. It grounds you in shame.

But it doesn’t work on me anymore. So my brain claws at the inside of my skull. I want out of this cramped room now! I want to be out playing tennis on the sunny tennis court, like that cripple in the promotional poster tacked up on the wall. That happy, free-as-a-bird cripple rides a Quickie brand wheelchair, the poster says. Or how about that other cripple in the other poster on the other wall? I want to be where he is! He sits in his wheelchair, majestic and proud, on a plateau in the middle of a vast canyon, blue sky in the background all around.

I want to be where he is! But how did that cripple get atop that plateau, with a sheer 50-foot drop on all sides? Was he airlifted up there or airbrushed?

The poster it seems is an ad for a wheelchair butt cushion. The poster bears the logo of the butt cushion manufacturer and one simple but poignant word of text: Freedom!

Wow! Freedom! That says it all, doesn’t it? Freedom. So this butt cushion must be a magic butt cushion, like a flying carpet! Strap it to your wheelchair and it whisks you, wheelchair and all, up to the top of a rugged plateau!


I want that butt cushion and I want it now! The cripple on the plateau has such confident posture. His butt cushion makes him confident. And confidence is sexy. Women love confidence. If I sit on a butt cushion like that one and go to a bar, women will throw themselves at me! That butt cushion is an aphrodisiac! I must have one NOW!

The repairman returns with my spanking new batteries. My reverie snaps. The bill will come soon. And I can no longer ease the financial pain with my Prayer of Self Belittlement.


  1. Ah, know the feeling ... like being tied up, like being locked in a cell, like being claustrophobic, which I am.

    I hate mobility advertisements, which are all predicated on crips having bought shares of Wal-Mart and Microsoft in the 1980s and now worried mostly about the cost of aviation fuel for their private jets.

    And I bet that "butt cushion" (which is known around our house as "Gary's artificial butt fat) won't come off the shelf and under your carcass for less than a kilobuck.

  2. Seems like there's something in the air, this post makes me think of a post I did just a couple days ago about the danger of comparing yourself to other people!

  3. I have convinced myself those... butt cushions just make my ass look huge... So, I can justify not having it... that and wearing black pants, black wheelchair, black cheap butt cushion to make my huge butt disapear into the darkness...
    does this font make me look fat? sigh...


  4. Can only begin to imagine how this is.

  5. Been there. Felt that. Aside from the point- which I love, butt it may be useful to know for your fans, we go to battery warehouse instead of med supplies stores. We get CHEAPER, longer lasting batteries plus they are not charging for labor to install because they aren't well informed about the wheelchair vendors' scams. Or maybe they don't charge for installation out of some pity thing, but I don't think so. We 'looked like' we could pay and had cash in our extended hand for him. He said his grandfather works on wheelchairs in another state and he respects the work. So it was a grandfather respect thing? There's a thought...
    So back to your point, I hate those posters and the "too kewl for a powerchair" message too. I think the super butt cushions make the butt look bigger because it can't mange the posture thing- who cares if we hurt- and the skin thing at the same time. and they leak! Put that in the posters selling bicycle tube patch kits showing a big butt crip on a leaky super cushion. That may be worth looking at during the interminable stuck-time of wheelchair repairs.

  6. Dude, are you in my head? I've always wanted to describe that trapped feeling to people, but I always chicken out because of my super cripple vision of myself. Sad I know.

    Going to read more posts now.

  7. Hey, I remember that initial image from 1980's slasher films! I'm assuming you were only clad in flimsy underwear at the time?