What would you do if you were 85, had survived cancer (twice) and heart surgery, and you fell down and broke three of your ribs? Chances are, you'd at least take a day off. But not if you were the "Notorious RBG." 

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fell down in her office on Wednesday but went home as usual. She experienced "discomfort" during the night and went to George Washington Hospital where doctors discovered she had broken three ribs. She doesn't let that kind of thing slow her down, though. Back in 2012, she broke two ribs and didn't miss a single day of work. 

This time, they admitted her for observation and treatment--so she started working from her hospital room, her nephew Daniel Stiepleman told reporters at the premiere of On the Basis of Sex, a film about a 1972 gender discrimination case in which Ginsburg was an attorney. "The last I heard she was up and working, of course, because what else would she be doing? And cracking jokes," he said. "I can't promise they were good jokes, but they were jokes." They let her out of the hospital and she went home where she is--naturally--working

Ginsburg has tapas, a Sanskrit word meaning "fiery discipline or passion." She's passionate about her work, and as one of four liberals on the Supreme Court, she knows that her presence there is important to some of the causes she feels most passionate about. And so in addition to working as much as she can even when facing health issues, she's also doing what she can to keep those issues to a minimum. She has two hour-long workout sessions every week with ex-military personal trainer Bryant Johnson; she's been working with Johnson for 19 years. The routine he has her follow, now popularized as the "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Workout" is vigorous enough that a young Politico reporter got worn out trying it. 

Ginsburg told the press back in 2013 that she wouldn't time her retirement based on who was president--that she would stay on the bench "as long as I can do the job full steam, and that, at my age, is not predictable." Clearly, she's still going full steam right now--because she has tapas.

I've seen it before, in my stepfather, who died early this year at 105. He wasn't passionate about his work as a cement company executive the way Ginsburg is passionate about hers, but he was passionate about athleticism, about running and hiking and playing tennis, about his family, about my mother, and, later, about his desire to care for her himself during her many years with Alzheimer's. He could have breezed right through the Ruth Bader Ginsburg workout when he was 85. He was still running in his 80s, and walking several miles a day in his 90s. He was also the happiest person I've ever known.

Tapas does that. You may look at Ginsburg and see someone hanging on by her fingernails, struggling to stay in her job so she can try to preserve Roe v. Wade and some of the other decisions that may get overturned in a majority conservative court. I'll admit, she's never been one to smile in photographs, so she doesn't look all that happy. But I still believe that she is--that she's a person following her passion, which is the same as following her bliss. And that if you're lucky enough to find something you feel that passionate about, that ignites the tapas in you, then you'll be happy too.

Published on: Nov 9, 2018
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