Skip Mediocrity and Wait – Wait On The Lord.

One of my favorite Bible verses, Psalm 27:14, tells us to be courageous and to build strength through our faith in God. The courage and the strengthened heart both happen in His timing, as everything else does.  A single sentence teaches a big lesson in patience but can offer much more when we apply it to our daily life.

As both sinners and followers, most of us are terrible with patience. As children, we are inpatient about the things we cannot yet do, innocently desiring to be older and wiser before it is time. As adults, we worry about the timing of our life choices, once again if they’re happening quickly enough or in the right order. And as the end of life approaches, the patience – or impatience – appears in a different form, as we decide whether or not we are ‘ready,’ and if we’ve accomplishment enough before we go.

The impatience usually leads us to manipulate our lives and mold them into what we

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Photo: Poetic Photography

think will best suit what we want to happen. We force the hands, call the bluffs, ignore feelings, and sometimes even alter who we think we are to make a situation be right. “How can I make myself most available for the pathway of life I think I’m supposed to have?”

You already know this, but the impatience is rooted in ‘the fear of missing out.’ Accepting the mediocre out of fear that the ‘best’ will come along too late [or not at all] and if we have not accepted the mediocre opportunity, we will then have no opportunity. Simplistic things like Friday night plans or an outfit decision naturally do a disservice to the gravity of accepting mediocrity with big life decisions like employment and marriage. It’s like shopping online and the notification pops up that says, “HURRY! ONLY 3 ITEMS REMAIN!” Our entire lives are deciding whether to commit and put that pair of shoes in the cart or hold out for a sale price tomorrow or next week, risking the missed chance at the shoes all together.

‘If you want to make God laugh, plan.’

But even still, knowing that we aren’t to accept mediocrity, we are tempted to do it. Fear consumes us and fear clouds our judgment and we end up making decisions with the leading factor being concern of missing out. Be it over simplistic choices or big life lessons, these fear-based decisions often backfire and not only have we accepted mediocracy, disallowing the best for ourselves, we end up dissatisfied with the the mediocracy in the end. This undoubtedly impacts those involved and unless you’re a great actor, it’s hard work to pretend like you’re not unhappy with the mediocre.  

All of that because we were afraid of ending up with nothing.

But is dissatisfaction with mediocracy something worth having? Is that even something?

I would argue it isn’t.

This isn’t to be confused with not being grateful for the blessings we are given. Of course we should be. But instead, it’s about asking yourself at what cost are you accepting mediocrity? What is the tradeoff? More importantly, what is it that you’re actually worried you’re going to miss out on? Is it what the world has determined you should attain and when? Is it that others have convinced you that you desire something?

It’s natural [and necessary] to have goals and earthly desires, but it’s also necessary for those goals and desires to be yours, rooted in your values and your faith and in the timing that is right for your life. The expectations the world has for you will never fit into the timeline of your own life.

This lesson, the lesson in patience, is about trusting your faith enough to know that God will not leave us with ‘nothing.’ If we feel like we have ‘nothing,’ our navigation is off.

It’s not an easy lesson and it’s hard to admit when something is outside of our control or won’t be happening in the time we set for ourselves. It’s admittedly a tough lesson for a control freak like myself and one I push and pull on daily, trying to find the balance between what I can do personally to avoid mediocrity and when it’s time to just give it all to God and wait, wait on The Lord. But it’s a lot easier to find solace in His timing when you know that your expectations are not the world’s, but yours and His.

psalm 27.14

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The Stories I Choose.

1,191. That’s how many days have passed since I wrote my first story on corruption in local government in South Georgia. It kind of fell into my lap and the rest is history. You may have heard about one or two of them, maybe all of them. Word travels quickly down here.

In the 1,191 days, I’ve learned that ‘journalism’ means different things to different people and I’ve even attempted to cater to the different definitions that various people possess in an attempt to please everyone, an action that results in failure 9 times out of 10. The consistent experts, on the other hand, say that ‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed’ and that everything else is just public relations. And I’m inclined to agree.

In those 1,191 days, I’ve also established quite the portfolio on things that people in

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Photo: Poetic Photography

 various places don’t want printed. Register, Reidsville, Cobbtown, Claxton, Statesboro, the Tattnall County Commissioners, the Bulloch Board of Commissioners, the Evans County Board of Education, the Tattnall County Magistrate Judge, Oak Park, the Brooklet Police Department, Wadley, the Georgia Southern Police Department, Candler County, the Ben Hill County Board of Education, the McIntosh County Board of Education,  and the Emanuel County Board of Commissioners. This is legitimately my job now and the pocket of available places I could peacefully live may even be defined as ‘narrow,’ but that’s another conversation for another day.

If you’ve heard about any or all of these stories, there’s a good chance you’ve also heard some of the same complaints I have – “She doesn’t write anything positive” or “Everything is about what [x] local government is doing wrong.” For example: I was recently criticized for not attending a Christmas tree lighting in the City of Brooklet that I didn’t know was happening. and if I had a dollar for every time I was chastised for missing an event I didn’t know what taking place, you’d be reading this column in a magazine I mailed to you, free of charge, for fun…not on a free blogging platform on the Internet.

I used to spend a decent amount of time trying to refute these complaints, explaining that I was not in the ‘social clique’ to know these things were happening, and justifying that I’m only one person and cannot be everywhere. I eventually gave up on trying to convince people why I believe what I do is important because the ones that understand that is will read it and the ones who don’t agree simply won’t. And that’s okay.

It is worth noting that AllOnGeorgia was created in the vision of reporting everything you don’t get everywhere else. I’m not sure any of us ever believed it would be what it is today, but this ship has been steered by people who ask for help, not by the most direct route to success. Further, someone already is, has been, and will continue to report about the Christmas tree lightings, the ribbon cuttings, the weddings, the family reunions, and the teeball games. So, why would I do something that someone is already doing, and, arguably, doing well?

I can confidently ask myself that question now, but I tried to do all of those things when I first started because I think they are important stories for communities and because I thought it would help me fit in. Turns out – it didn’t. You can’t squeeze an elephant into a guitar case and you can’t make someone passionate about something that doesn’t fuel their passion.

I have managed to find the niches of positivity that I enjoy sharing and I believe that I share well, but I write to tell a story and to inform, not to fill a page. I want the words I pen to make people uncomfortable, to challenge their beliefs, and to make them think. I want to inspire the people around me to seek change, to speak up, and to fight for their communities. To me, that is positive…even if it doesn’t make everyone feel good.

I am not sure that I owe anyone an explanation because I believe what I’m doing is right, but I offer one to my readers because I believe I was uniquely crafted to do this job. Why I believe that helps people understand me – and what I do – more clearly. There is no grey area in accountability and transparency and the lens through which I view events happening around me is, in fact, black and white. I didn’t move to South Georgia knowing that I would fall into this type of writing, but I did, and it’s important to me that I recognize where I was chosen to be. People, whether they love what I do or hate what I do, should know that, too.

Perhaps, the short version of this blog would simply argue that ‘positivity’ is too subjective to mean the same thing to everyone. But a purpose is neither positive nor subjective. It just is and I’m thankful for that.

Thankfulness.

The first holiday in the domino row of the season is just a few days away and while Mother Nature appears to be playing games with our hearts over what season is actually ‘in,’ for all intents and purposes, the holidays are here.

Thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday because it’s so much work only to have to clean up dishes when it’s all said and done. It’s a sprint, as opposed to the marathon of Christmas, which entails cookies and delicious treats for an entire month, great music, sparkly decorations, glitter, and cheerful people. Champagne isn’t as common on Thanksgiving as it is on New Years, which summarizes fully while it ranks at the bottom of the list of the 3 winter holidays.

But whether you love or loathe Thanksgiving, it is also the start of the introspective part of the year. People start reflecting on what the good, the bad, and the ugly of the last 11 months and joke about how much better next year will be when it gets here. For that, I find it tolerable. I like the analysis and I appreciate the ‘it will be better’ mantra shift away from ‘we just have to finish out this year.’ In order to know what we want next, per se, we have to take inventory of what we already have and what we find to be missing.

I look at Thanksgiving as the speed bump that slows us down enough to acknowledge thankfulness, appreciation, joy, and goodness. It’s the first hurdle in the season that redirects our focus.

All of you people who say, (and I say write this while echoing in my very best Mariah Carey voice), “Happy Thanksgiving – I’m thankful EVERY day of the year, not just on holidays,” congrats to you on your perfectly focused life.

The rest of us down here on Honest Island admit that we get caught up in the day-to-day of life, forget to be thankful, sometimes feel sorry for ourselves, want, desire, envy, and all the other sins normal humans commit. The rest of us take heed to the reason for the holiday season as a whole and get grounded once again.

So, the thankfulness.

Yes, we have so much to be thankful for. Yes, we are all so privileged and blessed. Yes, wejessica szilagyi (barn) have people who love us. Yes, we live in the greatest country on earth with so much opportunity. These are the low hanging fruits for which we are able to claim thankfulness. But there’s more to it than that.

Truly being thankful means more than just acknowledging the good around you. Being thankful is understanding that thankfulness requires action, not acceptance, and a desire to something with the blessings that are bestowed upon you. How can you put blessings back onto others in your life…and even those who aren’t.

The basics of returning thanks and blessings are a given. Charity, donations, open doors, etc. They are do good,  make for a better world tasks, and without a doubt bring joy to the recipient of said blessings. But what about the goodness of someone’s soul? How do we transcend the goodness of our blessings to someone else so they really moved by it?

I don’t know and it’s still something I’m grappling with myself. But some ideas I have pondered:

If you’re thankful for a loving family who lends a listening ear when you need it because you understand the value of it and what it offers in a time of sorrow or joy. To whom can you offer a listening ear?

In your thankfulness of your job (and ability to have one), ponder how you can not just help someone get back on their feet, but also how to mirror your work ethic, your zeal, and your passion for doing something you love.

If you’re giving thanks for your bountiful health that we all so often take for granted, for whom can you pray to see that same blessing.

In essence, consider how to add depth to your thankfulness and your sharing of blessings. People tell me all the time that they can tell when I’m writing about something I’m passionate about versus something I’m just writing about to fill the space. People can tell when we’re going through the motions or just doing something because we need to do it. This is the same thing. Give your blessings a story to follow – show those around you how your blessings inspired you to be better for yourself and for others.

Giving thanks is only half the task. Cycling our own blessings into blessings for others – and with purpose – is the truest blessing and what this season of thankfulness is all about.

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Combating Negativity.

We all have sources of negativity in our lives – be it a relationship, a financial situation, our employment, or perhaps our criticism of ourselves.

It comes in various forms: snide remarks from the people you work with, a season of your romantic relationship, a misfire in a friendship, or a lack of satisfaction with your physical appearance.

And then there’s social media. Unless you’re only friends with people who share cat photos and dog memes, social media is a negativity you can’t escape. The double-edged sword of the information age which gives us real time information at the swipe of a finger, rich with all the updates and commentary that leaving you hoping Jesus and a giant meteor are vying for a first place finish here on Earth.

This is something I struggle with because of my job. Writing about elected folk doing jessica szilagyi 1things that are harmful to others, and then using social media as the avenue of delivery leaves me 0 for 2 on a daily basis.

If politics, by default, is negative, then I don’t even know how to classify corruption and the exposing of it, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s somewhere around a 15. Think of all the people I’ve ticked off in these communities — their family, their friends, to name a few. Couple that with the fact that it’s happening in nearly every community, the ‘bad news’ about the people most folks have known all their lives leaves little room for a pat on the back. It’s too much for a lot of people –  I am aware of how that comes across, mostly because I know what it does to me. I would imagine the burnout rate is high.

On a day-to-day basis, I remind myself that my job has a purpose as I know what I am doing is right, but like all of you, that steadiness begins to shake when something else in life goes wrong, or another pressure leads to negative thoughts. Before you know it, I’m ready to sell the house, pack up, and start over again in a town far away, probably even out of the state, ready to marry someone with a name so far from Szilagyi that you’d never track me down– and on the days when I get to that point, I’m only slowed by my stubbornness of not letting the wrongdoers win. I eventually bounce back to logical thinking and remind myself that someone else’s negativity is not my own and I can’t let it seep into my life.

But that’s the problem with negativity: it’s like a snowball that gains momentum, spirals out of control, and eliminates your ability to reason with yourself.

I liken it to work, but I see it happen to others when someone is critical of their relationship, their parenting skills, their appearance, work ethic, or perhaps something less important like socioeconomic status or employment. How many people do you know who battle shame over who they love, their work-home life balance, how much money they haven’t made, how many goals they haven’t yet attained? And it’s usually not because of anything they think they’re doing wrong, but because of what others think.

Most of the negativity in our lives is there because we’ve allowed it to be, not because we’ve created it.

And I’m here to tell you that ‘ignoring it’ is not enough.  Back to my example of the negativity espoused by my work…The writings on this blog have been fewer and farther between than a year or two ago…not because I don’t have anything positive to say, or because I’m not interested in offering the personal reflection. Nope. It’s more on the excuse I’ve established that it’s hard for me to jump back and forth between the tone of my work in communities and the positive or reflective pieces I like to put on here. “Negativity is the enemy of creativity,” after all.

There have been times that I’ve convinced myself that people have come to expect the objectivity and the anti-corruption hardass in me and that they would have no interest in anything else. (Now, that’s negativity I’ve brought into my own life and really for no justifiable reason – you see how this works?)

Combating negativity is hard work and that’s why you can’t just take the ‘hands off’ approach to defying it. Neutrality accomplishes nothing. You defeat negativity by doing something positive.

Recall my excuse for not penning more columns on this blog: I said that when it’s time to turn off work, I just want to let my mind rest and so I do nothing. Wouldn’t my time be better spent – and wouldn’t it be more beneficial for me – if I utilized my skills and my passion to share stories that showcase the good around me in South Georgia, the way The Lord continues to shape me, and to shed light on who I am?

It’s important to remember that you’re doing this for yourself, though. This isn’t about the image you put out to everyone else or the life you claim to have. It’s for the simple well-being of yourself, to avoid the destruction that results because of pent up negativity. You’re just not allowing the criticisms to penetrate your armor. You’re changing the tone in which you interpret and internalize what’s going on around you.

Think about what breeds the most negativity in your life and ask yourself what positive thoughts and actions you can harbor to defeat those negatives. Before long, you’ll be on the offensive, without even knowing it, and with much less room for anything negative.

God Doesn’t Leave Empty Holes.

April 24 will mark 15 years since my Dad left this earth. I’m barreling toward my 30th birthday this year, the same way a meteor seems to speed toward Earth, it’s hard to believe that it’s now been half of my life. Every year, the date on the calendar inches closer and I once again find myself asking how I feel about it all. I momentarily think about it and then say “the same” only to carry on about my day.

I have always been open about the type of relationship I had with my Dad, not because I feel sorry for myself or want others to, but because the entire thing -from start to finish- was instrumental in making me who I am today.

But perhaps I just think I feel “the same” about it all because, on the surface it seems to be the same, but in reality, it is not.

I believe in the stages of grief, I just don’t believe there is an order to those stages or that
people must conform to the expectations of progression in order to successfully heal. I know I have healed and I know I’ve accepted the path that was chosen for him, for me, and for our family.  Unfortunately, the death of my dad was the ignition of a decade-long firestorm among me and my siblings that left figuratively – and quite literally – just ashes. That’s another story for another day, or perhaps my book, but my acceptance of it all surprises me. For as much as I ask ‘Why?’ in my professsional life now, it often surprises me that I don’t spend time asking ‘Why?’ in my personal life. But I don’t – at least not about my family. That’s healing.

I’ve been blessed with the ‘matter of factness’ of it all, understanding that this is just how Beaver Houseit was, how it is, and how it’s going to be. As vacant as it may sound, God did not leave those holes empty. I believe it has transformed how I see so many of the others in my life.

Over the years, a handful of people have been placed in my life to guide me in ways I feel sure my dad would  have had he been here. Some did so voluntarily and intentionally, others without even knowing they were doing it. During those moments in time, I don’t think I was able to recognize the purpose of those people in my life for their season, but when I consider the landscape now, it is ever so clear.

God’s plan for my life was undoubtedbly to grow up without my Dad but His plan did not leave me without someone to fill that vacancy. Because of my faith and the strength of the structure around me, I have not gone without.

I would never say it was better this way. Of course, we all wish things were the storybook picture we learn about as naive children, but because it wasn’t….isn’t…won’t be…the positive in it all is that the guidance that was provided and the messages that have been delievered were well-received because of the people around me that I trust.

I know my faults in my stubborness and my hard-headedness – both of which come from my Dad. Maybe all along God knew who was best-suited to deliver those lessons to me and that’s why those people were placed before me – like markers on a trail. Go this way.

We, as humans, spend a lot of time in our lives focusing on what we are missing, what we are leaving behind, and how much we should be rewarded for doing “without.” It’s possible we think we are doing so great with so little, but we actually have so much more than we see on the surface.

The blessing of my healing is that, despite the downfalls of my relationship with my dad and the true turmoil it created and left behind, I barely see that. I’m able to cherry pick the positives and remember the blissful child-like memories when I think of him: the model-rocket building, the treasure hunts he used to create around the house for my mom, the ridiculous jokes I thought were real-life stories. I’m also able to see, with clarity, the value of the people placed in my life.

Because God doesn’t leave empty holes. God delivers.

Feeling Small in a Sea of Greatness.

A lot of people hate the feeling of feeling ‘small.’ They associate it with insults, or condemnation, or oversight. I love it. I love feeling small.

Feeling small is why – or how (or maybe both) – I fell in love with South Georgia.

When I moved down south the first time, for work, it was about this time of year. No gnats, but still so warm. Too hot for jeans, but no one is tan enough or toned enough this early in the season to wear anything else, so you spend most days just walking around sweating and telling yourself you would rather be hot than cold. Your body temperature is usually escalated, given the heat, so you actually believe what you tell yourself.

But, in all seriousness, few people can refute the wonderful feeling of the warm sun on your face…especially when you’re surrounded by nothing. I remember the first time I stepped outside to no clouds, no noise, and just sunshine and open fields. It was the most freeing feeling to hear nothing and to see nothing but land in every direction. At the time, I had no idea why I was so consumed by the feeling of the greatness of my surroundings – though it was still emotional for me – but I conceded to allow myself to absorb and appreciate everything about what was around me.

When I did that, I saw a transformation in myself. Knowing my smallness, my true irrelevancy on this Earth, I actually found more purpose. It distracted me from anger, from bitterness, from grudges, from materialism and redirected my focus to my faith and to simplicity. Even in knowing my shortcomings, I felt pure. It was a peace I had never known before, but one I knew I wanted to keep forever. It was – and still is – astounding to me that it was so simple to attain, too. The epitome of ‘Let go and Let God.’

When I returned to South Georgia in the Fall of 2015, I gravitated toward the notion of smallness. I had worked hard to get to a position to leave the city and my positivity was radiating. Through my writing, I was able to share the profoundness of ‘the simple life’ and it brought joy to me and to others. I know many in my life saw a notable change in me. But earthly pain and suffering distracted me and ultimately consumed me. The rat race and pressures I placed on myself with work took precedent. I stopped writing for myself and my purpose and wrote for production and a machine. That isn’t to say my work writing serves no purpose, I feel sure that it does, but what good is a work purpose with no personal purpose? It’s like placing a pot on the stove to boil – whether the burner is large or it is small, it still needs the same amount of heat to make the water boil…and I was not distributing the heat evenly.

There were ‘triggers’ for me…things that happen that remind me of my perspective back in 2014 and 2015 that would immediately take me back. I would hear a song on the radio and I could remember when I heard that ‘before,’ where I was, the sunset, the fields, my purpose. But I would put it off until ‘tomorrow,’ saying I didn’t have time. A year went by before I really reflected and realized how few times I allowed myself to become consumed by what brought me here in the first place. Though it was comforting to know I could still be shaken and moved by greatness, what a disservice I was doing to myself by not capitalizing on everything around me.

We are so small and so unimportant on this massive planet. In our day-to-day activities, we are so irrelevant. Half the time, we don’t even know why we are doing what we are doing – we just ‘do.’ And then we praise ourselves for it. People balk at the saying, ‘Stop and smell the roses,’ but the true power in doing that goes beyond the 6 syllable cliché. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and feel small actually shifts us toward something much bigger, a place where we are better suited to grow.

Real peace comes in the blessing of knowing the value of being small and to feel moved by the greatness of nothing. Or at least nothing that is Earthly.

The apology that won’t ever come.

In my time before politics and writing, I worked with kids. Kids teach you a lot – most times more than adults – and almost always good things. There’s a short story I recall reading which was intent on teaching the importance of saying ‘sorry.’ It essentially went like this: Kid A and Kid B are playing together when Kid A asks Kid B if he would like a banana. Kid B says ‘YES,’ so Kid A grabs a banana and a hammer and smashes the banana before handing it to Kid B. Kid B is noticeably upset and says he didn’t want a smashed banana. Kid A says “I’m so sorry!” and runs to get another banana, smashes it again with the hammer, and passes it to Kid B. Kid B gets upset again and Kid A apologizes more emphatically. Kid A runs to get another banana but while he is gone, Kid B grabs an apple and goes outside to play alone. The end.

Why am I telling you about children and bananas in the most elementary way possible? As an illustration and the most simplistic way to teach the obnoxious lesson that ‘the best apology is changed behavior.’

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But even the Bible, a forgiving Lord, is clear that that isn’t enough. We must strive to be different.

Above, I describe the change in behavior as obnoxious because, if you’re on the receiving end of the apology, the changed behavior is desired, but if you’re on the delivering side of the apology, it sounds cliché and takes work to overcome a pride or a guilt. Even so, if the issue is important enough to you -like with family, significant others, friends, and even work – you come through with the changed behavior. Or you at least try.

It all seems pretty simplistic still, right? Wrong. We, as humans, have this odd tendency to want people to be sorry. We want to hear the words ‘I apologize,’ and we want those people to remind themselves that they’re sorry without us having to do it. You know what I’m talking about. Women are likely the worst about it, but men are pretty bad, too. If you have ever been in a relationship, you have probably uttered the words, “You don’t seem sorry.”

There’s one step above that pettiness which is the beloved, “You’re just saying you’re sorry because you know I’m upset.”

Feeling like the pancake keeps flipping here? In any given situation, you want someone to be sorry but when they are sorry, sorry isn’t enough, so you want more illustration of being sorry, but words are the best ‘sorry’ because you hear it, whereas ‘sorry’ in action sometimes isn’t as obvious, so “I’m sorry” remains at the top of the list for ‘sorry.’ Did you follow that? If not, sorry.

You get where I’m going with this, though. We demand verbal apologies all while knowing verbal apologies will never be enough.

Other times, we just want a person to be sorry about something that happened to us, even if that person isn’t the reason we want an apology. Sorry for what we’re going through, or how we’re feeling, or that we’re having a bad day.

But those people are almost always drowned out by the ones who say sorry over and over and never do anything different. These are the people who probably ruin the word ‘sorry’ for the rest of us – both givers and receivers of the word ‘sorry.’ Your doctor’s office is sorry they’re running behind. The server is apologetic for getting your order wrong. Your co-worker who never carries their weight, always has a reason why., and uses that ‘why’ as some roundabout Sorry I’m not doing what I’m supposed to. Same story, different day.

Why are these people ruining apologies for the rest of the world? Because they have no intention of changing. The doctor’s office probably isn’t going to start running on time just because they’re sorry for being late before. But they say sorry anyway. Your server isn’t going to cook the food herself next time just to make sure it’s correct. But they say sorry anyway. And your co-worker is most likely going to keep on the way they are until they’re no longer your co-worker. But they say sorry anyway. Will you be like Kid B and go outside – to a new doctor’s office, a new restaurant, or a new job?

Subconsciously, we know all of this, yet somehow, we’re more accepting of the apologies at the doctor’s office, or from the server, and the co-worker than we are of the people in real relationships because they seem sorry.

In the worst of cases, in our personal relationships, we’re so caught up in the seeming that we miss seeing. We’re focused on hearing “I’m sorry” that we’re missing an effort in a different way right before our eyes…and if we focus on the lacking words and gloss over the present behavior, we’re waiting on an apology that will never come.

It’s easy to leave behind a doctor’s office or a restaurant or even co-worker, but it’s much harder to leave important people behind. And wouldn’t you feel silly if it was only because you wanted the seem not the see?

So which would you prefer: the words or the action?