Desperate to please, to love and be loved, I couldn’t understand why my efforts often felt flat.
My dad was very good in some ways, but we needed to watch out for his short fuse.
My mother was what they call today “an ignoring mother” or “a covert narcissist.” On the outside, she seemed like a competent mother. But inside the family, she incited my father against us and could lose herself in “robotic” rages, where she didn’t seem angry but didn’t stop hitting, either, on the occasions we unknowingly didn’t allow her to ignore us.
I dreaded school. I didn’t fit in socially and I often didn’t like the schoolwork—and I hated homework. Furthermore, the minor bullying I experienced terrified me.
I was also phobic of slugs.
I grew up in a particularly rainy area of the USA, which meant skirting around slugs in your front yard, on your bike on the sidewalk, and it even meant finding a slug downstairs in your own home, trailing shiny white over the plush maroon carpet.
Once, upon spotting a slug as I innocently skipped downstairs to watch TV, I immediately dashed back up the stairs, screaming that there was a slug. My mother came down with a salt shaker and took care of it. (She didn’t like slugs oozing across her carpet either.)
Later, I found gratification in Gary Larson’s The Far Side comic strip, which portrayed an audience of slugs at a movie theatre watching a horror flick called Invasion of the Giant Salt Shakers! and featured terrified slugs rushing out of the path of ginormous salt shakers as the slug audience looked on in fright.
Later, I made my way to Eretz Yisrael where, even on rainy days, slugs are few.
Much later, I discovered Perek Shira and the song of the slug (or snail) from verse 58:9 in Tehillim: “Like a slug/snail, which continuously melts…”
Looking at how our Sages explained the verse, I understood that the slug which so easily “melts” in sunshine or dry weather, symbolizes bad people. As Metzudat David explains, “It’s the way of the slug/snail to ‘melt’ and go when the sun shines upon him.” In fact, that whole chapter of Tehillim speaks of toxic people and their end.
It hit me that throughout my sad, dark childhood, Hashem was actually reassuring me with all those slugs. It was His Way of telling me that the people who hurt me were actually terribly ephemeral. One day, the Sun of Mashiach would shine, all those don’t care about or even enjoy hurting people would melt away into nothingness, leaving me—and all their other victims—free of all the pain they caused.
Then, the other day, I was feeling down again and feeling victimized. Despite my emunah that everything is from Hashem and despite the fact that each time I encounter a difficult person, I respond as if it’s Hashem’s Way of asking me to daven for them (and I do), I was just feeling beaten down at that point. I felt like I couldn’t deal with those people for another moment.
Then I went out to my porch and spotted—a slug!
It was odd because I live on the second floor and a slug would have to ooze up the dry sandy bumpy stone on the outside of my building and then over the porch wall to get to the floor of my porch.
And it wasn’t that wet outside.
At first, my shoulders sagged. On top of everything else, I also have to deal with a slug?
But as I looked at it, I recalled its song and it hit me that Hashem had heard my pain and that this was another loving message from Hashem that the end is in sight.
All the bad things will melt away—hopefully soon.
And seeing as one of the people I felt stressed out by is actually someone whom I love very much (someone who is acting out of lack of awareness and not out of any malice at all), I took it to mean that the klippah fastened around such people will melt away, leaving only their good parts.
Feeling reassured and like the bad times are almost over, I went to make breakfast.
It was a beautiful sunny day full of fresh air. When I ventured near the porch again later, I could barely make out the slug; it had shriveled up into a dry dark narrow line.
So I didn’t have to deal with the slug after all.
I just swept it up like a dry shriveled stem and tossed it in the garbage, then went back to look at my bright, sunny, slug-free porch—just the way life will be when the time comes.