I appreciate the importance of not focusing on the negative, so you might guess I’d easily let go of perfectionism. Not always so.

I mean, the man I married 36 years ago never folds cloth napkins precisely or matches the corners just so. This man I call my Valentine forgets to smooth his finger along the middle crease to make it sharp and crisp. I wonder, what is he thinking after all these years?

I’d assume he would have discovered that, when it comes to folding napkins, there is only one right way: my way.

I know choosing our attitudes can make or break our days — or the days of others in our wake — yet I don’t often relax my need for pressing wrinkles out. I also know that paying attention only to the small dull crumples in life skews our view of the bigger, more beautiful picture.

And yet, I have to practice attitude adjustment daily.

One Saturday we go to lunch. I spot the line at the counter: 10 people too long. I order vegetarian soup. We sit at what I call a dirty table; newspapers cover it. We wait a few too many minutes for our food to come. When it does, I see a thick, smooth, white film on top of the bowl, and I ask the waitress, “Does this have dairy in it?”

She answers, “Yes, cream and butter.”

“I can’t eat this. I thought vegetarian meant dairy-free.”

“No, it’s not vegan,” she says, turns and walks off.

My husband starts to eat his turkey sandwich, which had been placed on the paper plate next to a pickle spear. I hate pickles.

The waitress approaches again and asks me, “Can we replace your soup with something else?”

I lighten a bit. “Wow,” I say, “How nice. Can I have a big garden salad?”

She says, “Of course.”

While I wait, I opt to get rid of the pickle on my plate and ask my husband if I can throw his out too. He gives it to me and I carry them to the trash, where I note what looks to me like all of Greater Portland’s crumpled napkins piled up in a huge bin.

As I retake my seat I roll my eyes, mimicking a fierce, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

With a bright smile, the waitress serves my colorful salad. I smile back and thank her. I mean it. This lovely stranger has helped me drop my prior stance of “things are half empty.” I sense a deep switch to “things are half full.”

Across from me, I see the hand of the man I love on his scrunched up napkin. This time, I also feel his warmth.

I say, “Thanks for this lunch; it’s fun to be out.” And, because the once-fogged lens through which I face this day has cleared, I mean it.

We notice ex-neighbors at this same lunch spot, a couple we have not seen for 20 years. We get up and go over to their table to talk. Ten minutes ago, I might have deemed this chat an unwanted intrusion. No longer sour, however, I feel the visit as sweet. I say, “It’s nice to see you.” I mean it.

At the same time, I recall words of poet David Whyte, “When your vision has gone, no part of the world can find you.” I have just proven that when we “change our mind” and open our eyes fully, more than our mind changes; the world can find us again. It lightens with us. We look for what’s right with this picture.

The overflowing bin of tossed napkins nearly trips me as I maneuver by it to leave. I almost miss this trash because, more wide-eyed, I see the friendly waitress and feel her kindness.

It’s true, as author Anais Nin wrote, “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

It was my brain, after all, not the napkins, that needed uncrumpling. 

Susan Lebel Young, author of “Lessons from a Golfer: A Daughter’s Story of Opening the Heart,” teaches mindfulness, meditation and yoga and may be reached at [email protected]