Having been an artist, working first in music, then in bodywork, for now for over 50 years, I have met many wrestlers – clients wrestling with their lives, students, teachers, and therapists. And I’ve been fighting the good fight myself these years as well.

The first person I ever saw wrestling artistically with desperation and delight was the great bluesman, Big Joe Williams.

First Big Joe had invented a one-of–a-kind 9-string guitar that itself was an unruly version of an instrument – with odd tuning pegs and ends of strings flying off in all different directions.

He played the nine-stringed guitar with ferocity. When he would begin to play he would grimace and fret. None of his parts seemed to cooperate. His fingers, his right and left hands, the strings, the whole instrument, and the sound would be at odds with each other. No doubt his mind and emotions were also in some kind of creative turmoil wresting with the angel or maybe with the devil – who knew?

But after a while, Big Joe’s struggles would ease up some. You’d see a hint of a smile pass over his face. Slowly things came into focus. You almost could see the fingers of his two hands beginning to have a creative relationship. The guitar would move with his body in a more rhythmic way. Finally he would look up and share his success with audience members.

He’d smile at them and then he would smile at his fingers and his guitar. It was strikingly like someone proud of the woman he was with. You could see that he somehow did not fully identify with the music he was creating. It was arising of its own accord – like watching one’s child dance beautifully – there is a reflected pride, but it’s not you.

When Big Joe played great; he was as much the pleased witness to that as were his listeners.

When I’m doing a session of deep massage, sometimes the image of Big Joe floats into my mind and as well as that of Jacob wrestling with the angel.

This struggle to tap into the goodness, truth and beauty of ourselves, our instruments, these miraculous hands, and the ultimate wild medium, this living, naturally self-transcending human who is our client – this is the struggle that makes us therapists grimace and delight. The client’s destiny is out of our hands – but maybe this wrestling and dance we do with dis-ease, with dis-position, and with destiny helps this person smile with joy at the music they can make of their life.

..and maybe right then the angel of Big Joe Williams is smiling down at you both…