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.