15 Years: A Married Man's Balance Sheet

15 years ago I stood in front of a hundred and fifty people and gave up my freedom. I lost some things, then and there, that I could never get back. There's a giving up to marriage.

I gave up any idea that I was a rugged individual. That I controlled my own time. My own living space. Even my own finances.

I remember buying a guitar in that final year before the wedding day, knowing full well this might be the last entirely selfish purchase I ever get to make. I was mostly right.

Sometimes, on special days like an anniversary, I think about the person I could have been if I had made a different choice that day.

Another version of me would emerge. Let's call him Other Dave. While one can never know the certain end of paths untaken, I can make some guesses on who Other Dave may have become.

Other Dave, having decided to go it alone, would be free to punch his own magnificent hole in the sky. To 'make a dent in the universe' as Steve Jobs so vibrantly put it. To shout his personality into the ear of the world through a megaphone. To spill his particular shade of paint across the earth. 

Other Dave would be a horrible listener. Not so good at empathy, either.

Other Dave would have been free to 'live the dream'. To follow his own path and dance like no one was watching. Because he could dance–at least at home–without anyone watching. Whenever he wanted. He'd likely be a better dancer than I've become.

And boy how he'd show off his moves.

Unhindered by marital restrictions, Other Dave would be able to buy whatever music maker or techno-gizmo the market taunted him with. He'd have an Apple Watch.  He'd certainly still have his twin Michael J Fox posters–Teen Wolf and Back To The Future–proudly in the living room.

His wild mess of a living room.

Other Dave would be more 'Davely' than I can imagine. Loudly, clearly Dave. Unfettered and unfiltered Dave. The Double IPA of Daves. He'd be free to be happy on his own terms, without permission. He'd have all the time he needed to pursue his passions. He'd be wildly successful. A rock star maybe. 

Maybe. 

Maybe Other Dave would be happy. But I have my doubts. Because he's still inside me somewhere. And to be honest, he's kind of an asshole. At best, Other Dave is arrogantly naive.

Today is my 15 year wedding anniversary. I did lose things at the altar, but what I have gained is incredibly surprising. Full of Grae and Mercy. Just as promised, I have gained true love. 

I can honestly say I love my wife Christie more today than I when I married her. Because Other Dave married her, and like I said, he's got problems. He's self-centered. He's got a hero complex. He doesn't know how to love himself because no one has shown him how. But I am learning how. 

Here are some of the things I have gained since that fateful November day in the year 2000. 

I've gained the freedom to screw up and still be loved. I've used that one often.

I've gained freedom from having to earn my worth in dollar bills. Or in the praises of others. In a cheering crowd. In a strong review. 

I've gained freedom from the bondage of biting criticism. Mostly. I've gained freedom from having to be liked by everybody. Pretty much.

I've gained freedom from having to be a 'pillar of the community' or a 'holy man' that people can look up. I've gained freedom from having to impress the religious establishment, or hold myself higher than everyone else. Freedom from being scrutinized, or believing I was.

I've gained freedom from taking myself too seriously.

I am free from living alone and lonely. Free enough to know those aren't always the same thing. I am free from having no soundboard for my crazy dreams. No objective wisdom. I am free from the voices in my head telling me I cannot do the next terrifying thing. Mostly.

I am free from eating nachos. All. The. Time. 

I am free from my self, because my self belongs to another.

Can I have a word with you, Other Dave? 

I promise you it is all so worth it. I promise you are going to love this girl more than you could ever imagine loving anybody. 

I promise you the kids you raise will surprise you in beautiful ways. That you'll give and give and give and sometimes they'll give back. That one day they'll get stuck downtown when their train gets cancelled and they will figure out they can take a bus instead, and which bus to take. And they'll take that bus and offer their seat to a disabled woman and make it to school on time. And you'll have nothing to do with it. Or everything to do with it. Or at least some to do with it.  No crowd of distant fans can give you this feeling, Other Dave. When you thought you wanted adoration, you really wanted love. They are entirely different.

I promise you cannot know how beautiful a woman is until you've been with her a good long while. Long enough to watch that beauty bloom beneath the skin. Say, 15 years or so. I promise you that your supposed freedoms and rights mean nothing if you cannot make her a sandwich in the early morning hours before work, and know you've made her day better in some small way. 

Love continues to transform me. I'm healthier. Mentally, emotionally and physically healthier than I'd ever have been on my own. Trust me.

Here's to 15 years, baby. I wouldn't have married Other Dave, but somehow you did. Thank you. 

For everything.

Dave Von Bieker

Dave Von Bieker, 11243 85 St NW, Edmonton, AB, T5B 3C6, Canada

Dave Von Bieker lives at the intersection of art, faith, hope and love. He has 2 great kids, a fantastic wife, and a mostly good dog. He plays red guitars and drives red cars.