I have also seen people die very suddenly even as they had expected a pretty miserable, long-term death. I've seen people [get the] get out of jail free card without a long, protracted death.

So I've seen prayers answered. It's just a nightmare for me that we don't get what we pray for. But often, in my experience, if you get what you pray for, you've really short-changed yourself.

I haven't had a life-threatening disease yet, nor has my son. And so if I were praying deeply, "Please, please, please God," and whoever was sick didn't get well, I'd be kind of surprised. But I'd know that we were brought through something that is pretty impossible to survive and yet we were going to survive it--without necessarily living on Earth a great deal longer.

You've had a lot of pain in your life, a lot of hurt, a lot of suffering. Has the pain given you more humor? Or has humor helped you deal with the pain?

I have a part of me--the part that isn't neurotic and grasping and furious and begging--a part of me that is a very quiet, more mature, slightly wiser self. That has sprung very much from having lost a few people that I absolutely and simply couldn't survive without. And that has come from the early hardships I experienced as a single mother without any money and a colicky infant. And then a bigger boy.

That wisdom has sprung mostly from getting older and realizing, you know, the Rolling Stones said, "You don't always get what you want, but you get what you need."

Work With What You're Given

My experience is that you don't always get what you want. But you get what you get. As you get older, you start to work with what you're getting instead of crossing your arms bitterly because you didn't get what you wanted. "OK, here we are. A new twenty-four hours is starting right now, and this is what we've got on our hands now."

'Age Is Such a

Age is just such an incredible blessing, the softening and the rounding of corners. And the sort of meat-tenderizing effects of aging. Like being a stone in the river – the sanding down of the sharp edges.

My sense of humor really developed, I think, from suffering as a child because I got teased so much about how I looked. I was quite strange looking and had this crazy, frizzy hair, and these big googley, goggley eyes. And I was so skinny, so so skinny.

I got attacked emotionally a lot, and that very much hurt my spirit. I grew up in a family where the parents didn't love each other, and where my parents struggled with their own forms of addiction and mental illness. I felt very, very scared.

It's funny because I'm a pretty afraid 52-year-old with a tremendous amount of faith. It's sort of paradoxical, although I often think of that wonderful line that "courage is fear that has said its prayers."

But at any rate, I was a very frightened and threatened child.

'My Salvation Was Laughter'