How to Highlight Books Without Feeling Like You are Doing Something Wrong

Engage with the text so you can remember later.

Patty McMahon, M.Ed
5 min readMay 22, 2022


Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Words. It’s hard to find them. Sometimes you never do. And then someone comes along and strings together a combination of words that describe it perfectly.

You know you’ve heard the perfect wordplay when you freeze for a moment so the words can sink in. You might feel tingles, a little lighter, tilt your head or pull your ears back. You get excited and think, “that’s exactly how it felt! So beautifully put!”

You want to know what spoke to me? This quote:

“The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak writing us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.” James Clear in Atomic Habits.

Why did it speak to me?

Recently, I stopped drinking alcohol. I didn’t set out to be sober for six months, but in the process of taking a break, I have discovered the embedded habits I have rooted in my life. For example, the rituals for drinking in my life.

Get home from work. I deserve a drink.

Long week. I need a drink.

Kids are fighting. I can’t wait for my drink later.

Going to lunch with a friend. A glass of wine sounds nice.

Social gathering. Glass to get ready.

Holidays. Which festive drink should I make?

Finished a project. Celebrate with a drink.

You get the picture. Drinking had become such a rooted part of my life, not like a lilac bush that blooms once a year for a short time, but like an oak tree; a solid, thick trunk of my daily rituals stacked on years and years and years of practice. Taking a break from drinking became a reflection of all my drinking habits. The branches have been trimmed, and the trunk is slowly pulled out of the ground.

Sobriety is delicate, like a flower. I still come home from work wanting a reward. So, I’ll drink a cold bubbly sparkling water. We still get together. But, I’ll make a dessert-y coffee drink instead. I still have thoughts out of nowhere…



Patty McMahon, M.Ed

Mother. Wife. Lover. Writing about alcohol free living and other daily insights on life as it happens.

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