Ask Ann Cannon: I’m looking for ideas to serve others as well as stay sane

Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • During this weird time of the pandemic, I have been struggling to find ways to cheer myself up. I’ve heard it said the best thing you can do is serve others. I’m having a difficult time finding ways to do that. I have one elderly neighbor who needs groceries every few weeks and I enjoy doing that for her. With the social distancing in place, I’m looking every day for little things I can do, but finding very few needs out there. I would love a list of suggestions of things I could do or look for that might help me lift my own spirits.

Wanting to Help, But Don’t Know Where to Go

Dear Wanting to Help • I commend you for your desire to help others, and it sounds like you’re doing a good job on that front. The Tribune’s Sean P. Means has done several stories on how you can help. You might also consider making donations to worthy organizations like the Utah Food Bank.

Meanwhile — and I hope you don’t mind — I’ve chosen to focus on your question about raising your own spirits in addition to offering service to others. Basically, I outsourced your question on Facebook and WOW! People were very willing to share their ideas with you.

Their responses follow, but I’d like to offer a tiny word of caution here. Don’t be overwhelmed by all the suggestions. And please don’t compare yourself to others. It’s sometimes easy to think that everybody else is handling things way better than you are. Just remember that all of us — including you — are doing the best we can do under extremely trying circumstances. Hang in there!

So, what are people up to? They’re reading, walking, hiking, spending time in nature, social distancing in the backyard with friends, sewing masks for health care professionals, gardening, spending more time with family, taking breaks from the news, playing music, listening to old albums, doing word searches and puzzles, reading The Salt Lake Tribune, watching movies based on Jane Austen novels, and talking to new neighbors.

They’re also riding bikes, doing art projects with the kids, Googling pictures of bunnies in cups (?!), video chatting with loved ones, taking virtual exercise and dance classes, crocheting, knitting, counted-cross stitching, writing down memories of loved ones and sharing them with the family, sitting on the porch beneath a blanket in the early morning, remembering that this is temporary, nurturing houseplants, praying, making TikTok videos of pet dogs, and enjoying the many COVID-19 memes.

Some of them are creating fairy gardens, playing hopscotch with a granddaughter, binge-watching shows on Netflix, enjoying lightsaber battles with an 8-year-old son, trying out vegan recipes, clearing out and getting rid of stuff, putting things into perspective, baking cookies, trying new recipes, painting, journaling, driving into the desert in the middle of the night to photograph the sky, eloping (!!), eating chocolate, breaking out the karaoke machine, catching up with old friends, and snuggling with pets.

I hope this helps!

Dear Ann Cannon • My brother has recently recovered from COVID-19 and wants to come stay with us in the desert for a while. We live in a two-bedroom house with an open floor plan — meaning we have very little private space. He has two dogs, one still a puppy, which he will bring with him. We’ve set some parameters, but I’m worried about how to carve out that all-important “space” for myself without hurting his feelings. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Desert Introvert

Dear Desert Introvert • First of all, let me note your EXTREME generosity here. Not everyone would be willing to open his or her home to someone (brothers included) with two dogs, one of which is a puppy. Wow! As you’ve anticipated, however, privacy will be an issue — especially if you’re wired to crave time alone, right? And, frankly, I think this arrangement will be challenging for you. No doubt about it, you’re just gonna be in each other’s space, even though you’ve set boundaries — a reality you may have to accept for now.

The good news is that this arrangement is apparently temporary. HOLD ON TO THAT THOUGHT. Meanwhile, can you find other ways to feed your need for solitude? Solo drives? Walks if you can stand the heat? Long baths? Look for small opportunities that allow you to be alone — even for just a little while — and embrace them.

Finally, I’m glad your brother has recovered. Good luck to all of you.

Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.