A friend recently finished remodeling her home. It was a big project that took over a year to complete. A few days after they finally moved back in, one of her young children took a crayon and colored on the freshly painted walls. “My new home is ruined,” she wailed to me.

“My new car is destroyed,” whined another friend after a too-close encounter with a garbage can left a scratch along the side.

And haven’t we all had one of those vacations where it rained or the kids fought (wait; that was every vacation!) or the accommodations weren’t as expected. “Our whole trip is destroyed,” I have kvetched.

What’s wrong with all these responses? Life is not an all-or-nothing experience, and we set ourselves up for disappointment and frustration if we expect it to be. Living in a material world means that stuff happens, things don’t work, mistakes are made, something goes wrong. We can either learn to roll with the punches and focus on the positive or spend our lives miserable.

The choice seems obvious yet many of us frequently choose the latter response. Instead of enjoying all the wonderful moments on the trip all we see is the rain and the activities we can’t do. What about the different kinds of activities we can do on a rainy day? Instead of focusing on the moments of family togetherness on the same trip, we are thrown off by that moment of fighting (be it physical or verbal). It’s a brief moment that the kids forget about immediately but we may make the mistake of letting it linger, of feeding the flames of frustration. Instead of taking pleasure in our new home and recognizing that it’s a place for people to actually live in, we allow that crayon to really annoy us (on a deeper level, we can be grateful that we have healthy, spirited children we can draw on the walls – a budding artist maybe! Does anyone actually buy this argument?).

You get the point. It all depends on how we look at it and what are our expectations. Perfection is not attainable in this world, not in ourselves and not in our surroundings. The more we seek or expect it, the more disappointed and frustrated we feel. And, conversely, the more we understand that this is a world of imperfections and that our job is to navigate our way through them with joy, the better equipped we will be to do just that.

Fortunately many of these problems can be solved. Walls can be repainted, body shops can remove scratches, we can move to a different room or a different hotel. (The fighting’s a little harder to control!) But something new will pop up. Paint doesn’t last forever. Pigeons’ droppings cover our cars and it always rains the day we get it washed!

But that’s okay. We can laugh at it and move on. We can teach ourselves not to look for perfection and to appreciate what we have. We can revel in a home well used with carpet stains and chipped paint and cracked dishes (okay maybe I’m going a little too far). And once we take the pressure off of ourselves and our families for everything to be perfect, we can relax and enjoy.

The first scratch is always the hardest. It’s best to just get it over with and then move on to the pleasure!