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Ellen DeGeneres On Life, the Oscars and Finding True Love

Right now, here’s what’s on Ellen DeGeneres’s actual to-do list:

1. Star in a talk show adored by millions.

2. Work with her wife, Portia de Rossi, on major renovations to their new home.

3. Stay calm about hosting the Oscars, which will be seen by nearly everyone on the planet, on March 2.

4. Remove throw-up deposited by Augie, Portia and Ellen’s new rescue dog, from de Rossi’s sweater (he gets carsick).

At 56, she’s taking it all in stride, and that has come with riding out bumps in life’s road. DeGeneres sat down with PEOPLE’s Elizabeth Leonard to share a little wisdom about what she’s learned along the way. And – no worries, Augie – she wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m hosting the Oscars – because it’s a really terrifying thing to do.

I thought, why not challenge myself? I’m comfortable right now, and it’s never good to be comfortable as a performer. In real life, I like to be comfortable. I go home and literally put pajamas on immediately. Creatively I need to push myself. Hosting the Oscars is pretty much the scariest thing you can do. This is up there with bungee jumping. It’s a room full of energy, like this breathing, living organism. I’m very susceptible to energy, good and bad, and I have to become a part of it and at the same time control it like a conductor. It’s such a delicate balance.

It’s a great year to host – there are great movies nominated and fun people in the audience for me to play with. I’m not going to hurt anybody, but it will be fun. I kinda know everybody too: Julia is my friend, Meryl is lovely, Sandra’s hilarious, Leo is fantastic, I did EDtv with Matthew, and I’ll definitely have jokes with him. Portia’s picked out her dress. I told my mom yesterday that she’s going, and she’s excited. My brother’s writing with me. I’m not taking this lightly, and I want to do a good job.

After I came out, I went through a really tough time. And that’s okay.

For whatever reason, it was a big deal for me to come out. To me, my coming out was the equivalent of if Liberace had come out. I didn’t think it was going to be that much of a surprise. What hurt was this: Does that label, that word, change my talent, my kindness, my heart, my intention for entertaining people? I thought everyone knew me, and I didn’t think that one little adjective was going to define me.

Source: People