On Celebrating Progress and Not Heeding Persian Myths

Playing in the playground in NZ

There is a superstition in the Iranian culture so integral to the belief system that you simply take it on as fact, lest you fall victim to its wrath.

It is the notion that you never, ever, talk about the good things that are happening to you such as the good health that you are enjoying or the good friendships that you are blessed with or the good boss that gave you a raise, so on and so forth, because the moment that you talk about these things, someone out there with an evil eye will inevitably jinx you and then you are doomed! Dark days and poor fortune will befall you, simply because you uttered a word about your good ones!

So we grew up believing this “bad eye” to be for real. We would listen to grown-ups teach us how to “beat” the eye and how to guard ourselves well against it. That means no getting excited and telling anyone about your accomplishments or general state of your happiness because Mom would scold you about how others will now jinx you.

For instance, a seemingly innocent statement such as “Oh look, I am so healthy I rarely get sick!” is enough to send an untold number of Iranian Moms and Aunts into a state of mad frenzy if not complete hysteria!!!

“SHHHHH!!” they would say with their index fingers up on their lips, “Don’t say anything! Don’t tell anyone!”, “But Mommy, I am just telling YOU! There’s no one else here…” We say what falls on deaf ears. “Someone will hear and then God helps us!” they would then knock on wood to keep the bad eye away, or keep the good fortune going strong – I forget which – and then send a prayer to the almighty forces that determine who befalls the “bad eye” next, asking for mercy to please spare us this one time.

Oh yeah! Talk about kill-joy!

Well, I don’t know if the “bad eye” came to visit me on the eve of my birthday, after enjoying so much good health in the last year – gasp – or if it was a message from the heavens to get so sick and so broken for 8 days that I was forced to examine my whole belief system about life, from early rising and sleeping to eating, meditating, resting and working because I could certainly not do anything terribly productive in between bouts of incessant coughing and complete loss of my voice.

Good thoughts and high spirits take leave of us when sickness hits home. It’s easy to tell ourselves to be positive and happy and grateful about life when everything is fine and rosy but what about the days when you can barely get through it all, and when you feel old and heavy and sick, rather than young and light and nimble? What do you do when all your plans are shot because an unexpected cough decides to invade your body and not leave until it has had its way with you?

Well, I’ll tell you what I did this week.

I wanted to sleep but I couldn’t so I laid down doing nothing.
I wanted to read but I couldn’t so I surrounded myself with all my books just so I could stare at them.
I wanted to meditate but I couldn’t so I stared at the ceiling instead.
I wanted to start off my birthday year with a jolt of energy and enthusiasm, and instead, I lost my voice and my spirits.
I wanted to stay strong and happy but I felt into self-pity and self-loathing.
I wanted to fight it so hard, this virus, this laryngitis, this whatever form of severe discomfort but I had no energy and no will.

So I finally gave up and I gave in. I quit fighting. I quit resisting. I completely surrendered.

I surrendered to the cough, to the headaches, to the lack of voice… I accepted the missed deadlines and the unexpected change of plans, and I did only what I could, which was not very much at all.

And then something strange started to happen.

I started to feel more gratitude, not just for my health but for my entire existence. Is it not amazing, I thought, that our bodies function the way that they do every single day for weeks and months and years? Is it not incredible that they adapt to the severe conditions and circumstances which we put them through and they still perform with beauty and grace? Is it not a gift and a miracle that we live in such a beautiful temple, such a complex and divine system that is still not completely known to man and one that still leaves us marveling at its maze every single day?

Of course the answer to those questions is a resounding yes.
And it’s all good and great to feel this way, even if we feel it during the absence of perfect health, which is life’s funny little irony, but then what, I wondered?

How do you put that wonderful sense of deep gratitude for your body and your health into practice? How do you use it to offset that frustration you feel for not being able to be productive, to do your work, to be your absolute best this Monday through Friday because of this lousy, stupid, untimely sickness?

The anger continues to linger for some of us, and no amount of acceptance seems to wash it away. It comes up over and over and try as we might to release the darn thing, we end up holding on to it longer!

“Why me? Why did I have to get sick? Why did I have to fall off all my beautiful habits and why around my birthday? Why why why?”

It’s not attractive to moan and groan, and it’s not easy to admit it either, but you and I know this happens. We do this to ourselves all the time. We are human beings. We are most of us both spoiled and too ambitious for our own good.

So yes, we do whine, mind you and we do it well, thanks to all the practice, with one beautiful exception: when we get sick of whining. What comes after that, when you get sick of being a person you always have been when life doesn’t go according to plan?

I noticed that as angry and unhappy as I was during this week, I wasn’t THAT angry and THAT unhappy. In fact, I was partly forcing myself to be angrier and unhappier because the situation SO warranted it but a part of me was content with the process of life as it was unfolding.

I call that progress, my dear friends. Progress.
Not arrival at destination.
Not completion of a journey.
Not reaching the finish line.

Just progress.
The energy of progress.

Being a little better than you were before.
Being a little wiser, a little more mature, a little lighter, a little happier, and a lot more grateful than you used to be.

That is progress, and that is worth a celebration.

So I want to encourage you to commit to your progress when those days are at hand, and to be gentle with yourself rather than harsh, and to allow these tough days to come, and also to not hold on to them when they are finished with their business so they can leave … because you and I will get through whatever it is that we are going through right now, as long as we get up every day and do our very best and be a little better than the day before.

That and remember not to mention anything about your blessings or the “evil eye” will find a way to come and jinx you! ;)

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  • http://dogreat.net Élan

    All those Persian myths make me smile. Heaven forbid you say someone old is in great shape. They’ll probably die the next day. And your appendix will burst if you exercise after you eat.

    I used to get mad … like when my husband wouldn’t tell ANYONE that we were engaged. Now, I understand and enjoy those funny parts of Persian culture!

    Thanks for the great post, Farnoosh. When I wake up, I do try and remind myself to do a little better than yesterday.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Elan, you married a Persian guy??? I had no idea. Oh yes, our Persian myths are endless and a great source of entertainment for sure! You cannot believe some of the stuff I grew up hearing – and half-believing! ;)
      And I hope you do remind yourself of that golden truth everyday. How lovely to see you here, thank you for brightening up the space here with your words and energy!

      • http://dogreat.net Élan

        Yes, Farnoosh! My husband is from Mashhad. He lived there ’til age 21, then Malaysia until age 26 and now America at age 27. That’s why I’m probably the only person in rural Minnesota who speaks Farsi!

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          Your hubby is only 27! You young babies :)! And Mashad is a great city. I am very impressed that you speak Farsi, dear Elan and I can’t wait to meet you in WDS. You are coming right?

          • http://dogreat.net Élan

            Yes! I’m planning to arrive Friday afternoon and leave Monday afternoon. I’ll be staying at the Westin. How about you? I really hope we have time to meet up and chat for a while.

            • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

              We will be there all weekend too. Not sure of our schedule yet – my hubby does all the planning – but we will be in touch and I will meet you for sure, Elan :)!!!

  • Anna

    Its not only a Persian myth but a Russian/Jewish one as well! Be careful do not invoke the evil eye!!!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Anna, good to know we are not the only crazy culture…. Don’t worry, it’s gonna take me a while to completely rid my system of the belief so I half believe in the evil eye. ;)!

  • http://devacoaching.com Sandi Amorim

    This one made me laugh because my Sicilian great grandmother used to say the same things! She’d screw up her face and make these scary noises and scare the life out of us kids if she noticed us being too happy! Like you couldn’t express that much happiness or you’d jinx it.

    As I begin week 2 of my detox month I am feeling so very grateful, and I know I’m just at the beginning of this physical transformation. Doesn’t matter. I wake up smiling, wondering what great new thing will surprise me each day.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Sandi, I can picture your Sicilian great grandmother saying them in a deep Italian accent…. What on earth! She’d probably go nuts listening to any of your coaching calls, don’t you think? ;)!!
      Week 2 of detox? Brilliant! Are you almost ready for the juicing clinic? I am so happy and so very proud of you. Big hugs and keep smiling big and bright! I know I will!

  • http://StrongInsideOut.com Amy

    May I just say how much I thoroughly love your writing? It’s like I’m there with you throughout your post!

    I think we’ve all thrown ourselves over to self-pity and whatnot before. It’s our ability to recognize it and pull ourselves out of it that is so crucial to our happiness. I used to believe in that evil eye too! My Mom always called it “Murphy’s Law”- whenever something starts to go well, just watch out… the other shoe will drop.

    What kind of way is that to go about life? Always fearing the end of happiness, expecting that horrible things will happen if you let people know that you’re enjoying life? I made the choice to rid myself of that mindset a few years ago and have never looked back… though my mind does drift there sometimes. When it does, however, I actively, consciously have to pull it back to my awareness that just because something bad happens doesn’t mean that something catastrophic will follow.

    It’s so funny hearing this from you! You are such a positive person, full of light! Thank you for being vulnerable for us; allowing us to see that even the most positive people sometimes feel negative.

    That’s the end of my rant I promise. ;)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Amy, you are so sweet – I am so happy you enjoy my writing. I checked out your blog yesterday and really love what you are doing too.
      I was really worried about you when I read your About page and all your struggles and am SO happy you have found your way to happiness and inner peace and are now helping others achieve that. Don’t worry, happiness does not have to end and we don’t have to listen to the older generations and live with that fear, so let’s re-condition ourselves to BE happy and not be afraid to show it…..
      Big hugs to you and come back to rant ANY-TIME, please :)!

  • http://www.entwicklungscamp.de/ Andrea

    Yes, I know the stories about the “evil eye” too. Though it`s not that strong in German culture. Anyways, when I read the post I really thought “What an awful way of thinking and living” – Imagine you can`t celebrate and be happy about the best things in life. How sad and limiting this is. I rather spend my days being grateful for what I have – the great people and family around me, the good vibes and emotions. I celebrate this.
    And – secondly – I strive to get more of the good stuff :) Yes, what you say about progress is absolutely true here too. Become a bit better, happier, be more grateful.
    Andrea :)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Andrea, thanks so much for your thoughts. You know, it’s actually amazing that despite that, the Iranian people are a happy bunch of people, and big into celebrating and living life fully – I guess it’s just strange how you can’t really talk about it openly but anyway, I am with you in celebrating it all. :) Thanks for stopping over!

  • alanc230

    I’m aware of these types of beliefs, though I was never subjected to them by family. I really thought this was going to be a humorous post–then realized what you were saying. This is a great reminder to all, every day.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Alan, I was being humorous for the first half of the post. :) Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for stopping over.

  • http://alwayswell.wordpress.com Sandra / Always Well Within

    Farnoosh,

    It’s so important to acknowledge every wee-bit of progress, isn’t it! Congratulations for remember that. “Surrender!” Ah, the single answer to so many of our turbulent emotions and life challenges. “Surrender, how sweet!” Thank you for reminding us of this magic potion of release.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Sandra, thank you for stopping by and for your sweet words of encouragement. I’ve learned a lot from the process of life lately and it is making me a lot more humble and a lot less aggressive about my approaches. Your site is looking beautiful as ever, and I am sending you heaps of love from here. Thanks for your kind comment.

  • Rebekah

    Farnoosh,

    Hi, I’ve been reading for a while w/o commenting, but enjoying your posts as always.

    – Such is the difference between the survival habits of a limited, oppressed culture and one in which we’re free to flourish. This post brought a lift to my day partly for its fresh personal perspective and partly for supporting the long, steady work we do on the same old fronts. Celebrating your birthday, the gift of your writing, and your happy recovery!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Rebekah, my dear,
      Are you back from your adventures in Greece and how was it?
      I am so happy to have you as a reader, even if you are a silent one!
      Thank you for your beautiful prose, I’ve missed it so, and for the birthday wishes. I am on the mend, and can’t wait to feel full health again. How I’ve missed it, I can’t even begin to tell you.
      And speaking of missing, you’ve been missed too, dearest Rebekah. Welcome back!

  • http://www.successbuildingblocks.com Grady Pruitt

    Other than the sickness, wasn’t this last week just the best week of the year to have a birthday? :D (Mine was Friday ;)

    You know, I was just reading in The Secrets of a Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker the other day about how the “poor” people think self promotion is bad, but “rich” people are willing to promote themselves.

    We truly do have amazing bodies that have remarkable healing abilities. In fact, there is so much undiscovered about our ability to heal that “miracles” still happen all the time and cases that were “sure” to be terminal were overcome simply by the “willpower” of the person to live and not give in to the “terminal” case.

    I hope this great post means you’re on your way to recovery and that you are feeling better every day! Thanks for sharing!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello dear Grady, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Welcome here and a happy belated birthday to you. Well, I must be the richest person then because I love self-promotion. In fact, I have a page devoted for my readers to do just that – have you done yours: Promote Yourself!
      So nice to hear your wonderful words here, Grady. Thank you and I hope to be fully recovered next time we speak. All the very best to you.

  • Siavash

    Me and my friends decided to go on a road trip from Amsterdam to Madrid, when they came to my house to pick me up my dad did the whole ‘esfand dood kardan’ ritual, he even advised my friends to do it. And on my way out he held a Qoran over my head. Pretty hilarious if you ask me.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      That is exactly what they did to me before I went to my wedding ceremony – note: I am not a Muslim and frankly neither are my parents but there is magic in traditions. I did enjoy the smell of esfand for sure. Yes, all hilarious but alas, it’s our tradition. :)