My husband kissed me last night. It was one of those kisses that rocks you to your core. It was one of those kisses when your very soul cries out, This. This right here is why I chose you and will continue to choose you over and over again. It was one of those kisses to leave you breathless, shaken; to stir your heart; to center you and complete you when you didn’t even fully realize those things were missing.

It’s funny how a single kiss can bring you right back to the heart of who you are.

I’ve been struggling. It seems like I’ve been struggling for months. Months of worry over our son has gotten its hold on me, and I feel as if I’ve been pulling away. I’ve been pulling away, not just from my husband, but from everyone and everything. 

Most importantly, I’ve been pulling away from ME. 

I’ve been lost, directionless, stagnant, unable to move forward. I haven’t been the best wife. I haven’t been the best mother. I’ve most definitely not been the best friend.

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It’s not as if I haven’t been trying. I truly have been. But for months, I’ve felt as if I am merely wading through life. I’ve felt as if my sole focus has been on surviving. and I haven’t been doing a very good job at that.

Mental illness in a child is crushing. It is guilt-producing and anxiety-laden. There is nothing quite like it. 

You spend your days looking at the signs you missed. You spend your days analyzing everything you’ve ever done, everything you’ve ever said, every punishment you’ve ever doled outtrying to determine if you could have done anything differently.

If you’d known, would you have responded in that particular manner? Were you too harsh? Were you not as empathetic as you should have been? Did you downplay something when it should have set off alarm bells? Did you rely on things you shouldn’t have? Did you bury your head in the sand?

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I’ve been doubting myself as a parent. I’ve been doubting my abilities as a parent. In this world of perfectly composed Snapchat and Instagram filtered moments, it’s so difficult to find authenticity. It seems as if people are more interested in projecting their perfect moments for the world to see, rather than the imperfection of the everyday. It’s hard not to feel like the world solely longs for pretty perfection.

I’ve been carrying this weight around on my shoulders. 

I’ve been carrying mental illness. I’ve been carrying the weight of expectation, the weight of silent or not-so-silent judgment. I’ve been carrying grief and feelings of failure, and they’ve been causing me to trudge through my days, knowing I can never live up to those expectationsboth my own and those of others.

That kiss last night, though. That kiss stopped me in my tracks. It made me pause. It was a whisper to the woman deep down inside. The whisper told me to hang on. It reminded me of who I am. It reminded me I am doing my very best. It gave me moments of blissful release when all I had to do was remember why it is I love this man. It reminded me of the love I’ve felt for as long as I’ve been able to voice what true love is. It awakened the joy in me. I came alive.

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When I am lost and alone, that kiss will bring me back to me. With this man by my side, with this man kissing me, I am forever connected. I am joined to the one man, who can cut right through the noise, the worry, and the guilt to awaken the girl he first fell in love with. 

The kiss is everything.

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Jen Riley

Jen Riley is a wife and mother, a writer and photographer. She spends her days managing her family's extensive activities and pouring out her soul in both words and pictures at http://www.jenrileywrites.com and http://www.jenrileyphotography.com