Transposing emblem by Virginia Sanmartín

It is amazing what a mere prefix can bring about: able or unable, breakable or unbreakable, certain or uncertain. It can cause a 180 degree turn. It can completely change our lives. On most occasions, we cannot erase this prefix. But sometimes we can choose how we want to face it and how it affects us.

Every night, we go to bed and set our alarm clock. Will it ring? Or not. What if the batteries run out and we are late to work? We signed an agreement. We will earn a fixed salary monthly. Will we be able to pay our mortgage? Maybe not. What if the company goes bankrupt or decides to fire us? Next Sunday we are going to the beach: friends, laughs, a great picnic… Will the weather be nice? Maybe not. What if there is a red flag and we cannot go for a dip? We stayed up all night and did our best on that project. Will it meet everyone’s approval? Maybe not. What if we have to start all over again?

These situations and thoughts are just a few examples from our daily lives. We have the need to lean on certainty as a walking stick that will accompany us on our path. We can be bound or sure or even positive that something is going to happen. However, there is always a little doubt, a tiny percentage, a possibility that it is not. And those “maybe not” and “what if” are precisely what get us to think something will go wrong. Incertidumbre (uncertainty) causes anxiety, stress, worry, unease… Possible rain on your wedding day or getting guests’ congratulations on your menu may seem to be silly cases, although they are very important for many people. But what about a response to therapy or having enough water to supply a town or accepting a presidential election’s results? Whatever the case may be, the main thing is: don’t allow incertidumbre to become pesadumbre (grief). The solution is in our hands.

Just ignore the “un” and focus on the other side. Try to change a “no” to a “yes.” Will it work? Maybe yes. Are you still thinking about this tiny percentage of probability? Well, let’s find a plan B. Obviously, we can’t be sure that this plan B will work either; it might not represent that walking stick we need. However, we could see things in a different way. We can make uncertainty become hope instead of fear.

Lo único seguro en esta vida es la muerte (Just death is certain in our lives). That is a well-known saying in Spain. Despite the fact that it means we are surrounded by uncertainty, it is used to encourage people: I would buy a lottery ticket but I won’t win; I would send my CV but I won’t get the position; I want political change but my vote won’t change anything.  Don’t be in doubt! Buy it, your ticket can win! Send it, there is a chance you’ll get the job! Vote, it can make a difference! Incertidumbre about what will happen is as frustrating as incertidumbre about what would have happened.

Most people, adopting the position of reincarnation in Descartes, try to convince us to think something is totally true. If we are not sure about something, how could they be? Someone is innocent until proven guilty because of reasonable doubt.

Incertidumbre experienced by most scientists and inventors and researchers has led to great developments. We wouldn’t have had the light bulb or new drugs if doubt had restrained them from trying. I am quite sure that most politicians consider defeat, but it doesn’t stop them from carrying out their plans to improve. Likewise, evolution is defined by the ignorance of the future: Millennium Development Goals won’t be reached if incertidumbre prevents politicians and actors from acting despite the possibility of failure.

Considering incertidumbre as an adventure or challenge gives us the opportunity to transform stress into enjoyment. Incertidumbre about what will happen next must lead us to live and enjoy everything and every day as the last and the best one, trying and accepting everything that may come. Would you watch a football match if you knew the result? Would you read a thriller if you knew who the killer is? And we can also gain strength. We can be ready for what may come. A close friend of mine suffers chronic pain. There are good and bad days. She goes to bed every night uncertain as to whether or not she will feel pain the next day. Maybe not. Great! Maybe yes. What if the pain only lasts until the afternoon?

I had the chance of writing about incertidumbre. Apart from personal insecurities, I was not sure if my text would be selected and if it was, I was not sure if I would be able to do it well or meet the expectations. I was about to not do it. I didn’t know if I would be able to express what I wanted to say, if people would read it, if they would like it or think it is complete nonsense… But finally, it didn’t prevent me from trying, despite everything. Most of us live in Doris Day’s eternal question: ¿qué será, será? And it has no answer; or rather, it doesn’t have just one answer. That’s so exciting! Isn’t it? Always feeling these butterflies in your stomach…